Mustafa Oğuz / Izmir, July 2 () - Refugees in the western coastal town of İzmir attempt to cross the Aegean wearing poor-quality locally produced life vests, further endangering their lives.
Mostly of Syrian origin, the refugees flock to cheap hotels in İzmir’s Basmane neighborhood, a hot spot for illegal immigrants, where they await their attempted escape to Europe.
In preparation for the journey ahead, refugees typically acquire low-price, under-the-counter life vests, which are black in order to help the refugees stay unnoticed by coast guards.
Sait Güderoğlu, one of Turkey’s top two life vest producers, warned of the dangers of low-quality life vests, told .
“100 Newton life jackets are considered the original life vests. They can keep a person afloat for up to 12 hours, even if the person is unconscious” he said, adding that the life vests being given to refugees in İzmir are hardly able to keep a child buoyant.
“Such life jackets are made of backpack material and filled with sponge. Because sponge is hydrophilic, it drags people down and causes them to drown,” Güderoğlu said.
According the International Organization for Migration, the number of refugees who have crossed the Aegean into Greece over the first five months of 2015 has already reached 42,000 - almost the same as the total number for 2014 that stood at 43,500.
Figures from the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) show that an estimated 600 migrants arrive in Greece via Turkey every day.