Migrant shipwreck off Turkey kills 22, police bar route to Greece

EDIRNE, Turkey - At least 22 Greece-bound migrants drowned on Tuesday when their boat sank off Turkey, officials said, as police blocked hundreds of others seeking to find an alternative route to Europe by land.

Eleven women and four children were among the victims of the latest migrant shipwreck in the Aegean Sea, where three-year-old Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi drowned two weeks ago, the Dogan news agency said.

A further 249 passengers were rescued from the wooden boat which set off from the southwestern Turkish resort town of Datca for the nearby Greek island of Kos, the Turkish coast guard said.

The migrants' nationalities was not yet known.

The deaths brings to 24 the amount of refugees to have drowned off Turkey in the last day after two Syrians drowned trying to cross to the Greek island of Samos, Dogan reported.

The route across the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece has become the busiest for migrants and refugees fleeing conflicts and misery in Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern and Asian countries to Europe.

Of the more than 430,000 migrants and refugees to have reached Europe via the Mediterranean this year, some 300,000 landed in Greece, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said Friday.

Faced with the mounting death toll at sea, a number of refugees wanting to leave Turkey have opted instead to take buses to Greece -- but on Tuesday found themselves thwarted by Turkish authorities.

Around 1,000 migrants who had gathered in the western city of Edirne, close to the Greek border, were being barred by military police from leaving the bus station, an AFP photographer reported.

Some had undertaken at least part of the journey from Istanbul, around 250 kilometres away, on foot after being barred from purchasing bus tickets there. Columns of people could be seen tramping along the road.

'I had nightmares for days'

Jihad, a 22-year-old chemistry student from the Syrian capital Damascus who was among around 500 migrants waiting in Istanbul to board a bus, told AFP he was on his third attempt to reach Edirne by bus after a failed boat crossing to Greece, which ended in his detention.

"It was so scary, I had nightmares for days. I'm almost glad I was detained because otherwise I could be dead," he said.

But his attempts to enter the EU by land have also been fruitless so far, with police in Edirne twice arresting him and returning him to the southeastern province of Gaziantep, home to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

"I have friends in Europe and they tell me that no matter how hard it is to get there, everything is much better in Europe. The hardest part of it is to get there, and then there is so much hope," he said.

Harrowing pictures of Aylan Kurdi, whose body was found washed up on a Turkish beach after the boat carrying his family to Kos sank, caused an outpouring of emotion around the world, pressuring European leaders to step up their response to the refugee crisis.

Turkish authorities say they have rescued over 42,000 migrants from stricken boats since the beginning of the year.