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Turkey Ends Search for Victims of Capsized Immigrant Ship - 2003-12-21

Turkish rescue workers have abandoned their search for survivors from a ship carrying up to 60 illegal immigrants that sank off the coast of Turkey's Aegean resort of Marmaris. Officials confirm that only a handful of passengers survived, among them a 10-year-old girl.

The search began late Saturday after an Iraqi survivor clinging to a wooden plank was found off the shore near Marmaris. The ship was believed to be carrying dozens of Jordanian, Afghan and Iraqi nationals, most of them illegal immigrants. The Iraqi survivor said there were at least 55 people on board.

The local governor says rescue teams found only 13 life jackets and a small part of the ship's navigational equipment before calling off the search in Turkey's territorial waters. Search and rescue teams from neighboring Greece had also launched an operation using helicopters and boats to find possible survivors in Greek territorial waters in the Aegean Sea.

Turkey is one of the main transit routes for tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East who try to make their way to European countries either overland or on board ramshackle boats in quest of jobs and a better life.