Turkey detains 11 suspects after a boat carrying up to 60 migrants sinks in eastern Van province, leaving at least six dead and others missing.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu inspects the search operation on July 1, 2020 in Van, Turkey.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu inspects the search operation on July 1, 2020 in Van, Turkey. (AA)

Turkey has detained 11 people after a boat carrying up to 60 migrants sank in a lake in the eastern province of Van, leaving at least six dead.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Wednesday the boat sank on Saturday evening in Lake Van, reportedly because of stormy weather, and that a search for the missing is underway. 

He said six bodies had been found but the status of the other passengers, believed to include women and children, was not clear.

Soylu said authorities were alerted to the incident only a day after the boat capsized.

The migrants included Afghans, Pakistanis and Iranians, Turkish local media channel Haberturk reported.

Lake serves as entry point 

The lake is near the border with Iran, from where migrants regularly cross into Turkey, heading west toward Europe. 

The lake, which is completely within Turkey's borders, is on the path of migrants attempting to reach western Turkey from Iran, Afghanistan, and other countries.

Thousands caught after illegal entry

Seven people died and 64 were rescued when a boat carrying migrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan sank on Lake Van in December.

More than a million people reached Greece from Turkey in 2015-16, although the numbers later dropped sharply under a 2016 agreement between the EU and Turkey for Ankara to take refugees back in return for funds, visa liberalisation and help resettling Syrian refugees.

In the first half of 2020, around 30,000 Afghans and Pakistanis entered Turkey, according to Interior Ministry data.

Last year more than 200,000 Afghans and 71,000 Pakistanis were caught as they tried to cross the country but the numbers have dropped this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.

READ MORE: Migrants seeking a path to the EU face “Country of torture”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies