By Tezcan Ekizler
IZMIR, Turkey (AA) - The Turkish coastguard on Monday rescued a total of 11 irregular migrants, who were illegally attempting to cross to Europe through the Aegean Sea.
A local coastguard official said a rubber boat carrying 11 irregular migrants -- including four children -- sank off the coast of Cesme in the Aegean province of Izmir.
The migrants were taken to a hospital.
Search and rescue operations are ongoing as a Turkish-origin human smuggler was still missing, said the Coast Guard Command in a statement.
According to the migrants there were 12 people on the boat, the statement added.
Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
The illegal migration trend gained momentum with the unrest in the Middle East, especially since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011.
Some 268,000 irregular migrants were held in Turkey in 2018, according to the Interior Ministry.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar