VAN, Turkey

Three suspects were remanded in custody on Friday over the sinking of a migrant boat in Lake Van in eastern Turkey.

Among the suspects was a man named Medeniz Akbas, who managed to swim ashore as the vessel sank.

The boat is believed to have been carrying up to 60 migrants when it sank, and authorities had recovered six bodies by Wednesday, according to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.

He said 11 suspects were arrested on human smuggling charges. 

Soylu said authorities immediately launched a rescue operation after they were informed of the incident on June 28.

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the number of irregular migrants arriving in Turkey has declined.

However, more than 21,000 migrants have reached Van so far this year, Soylu said on Wednesday.

Of them, 16,000 were denied entry but 4,500 managed to enter through illegal means, he said.

Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants aiming to cross to Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

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