Security forces intercepted 74,824 illegal migrants last year in Edirne, a Turkish province on the border with Greece, the latest figures show. This is almost more than double the number of migrants stopped near the border or in downtown Edirne in 2016.
Authorities say the majority of those seeking to cross into Europe via Edirne, which also borders Bulgaria, were Pakistani nationals. Some 30,000 Pakistanis made up the total number of migrants who were stopped in İpsala and Meriç, two Edirne districts near the border. The rest were Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Afghans, Bangladeshis, Algerians, Moroccans, Somalis, Libyans and citizens of other countries.
Police and gendarme units assigned to rural areas regularly patrol the city for illegal migrants, while the migration authority of the province is among the busiest in Turkey for processing illegal migrants. The migrants are taken to a center to be identified and for other legal procedures after being intercepted and are accommodated at the center until they volunteer to return to their home countries. They are given three meals a day and offered health services at the center before they are provided transportation to their home countries for the day they chose to voluntarily return.
Temperatures continue to hover below freezing in Edirne and other provinces near the border, coupled with frequent rainfall. Still, migrants risk their lives by usually taking boats on the Meriç River between Turkey and Greece, while some try to swim across to the other side in the freezing weather.