Security forces in the northwestern province of Edirne stopped 209 illegal migrants Monday as they were trying to cross into Greece in rural parts of the province. Migrants were identified as Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian, Palestinian, Afghan, Pakistani and Bangladeshi nationals. They were taken to a center for illegal migrants in central Edirne.
A large number of migrants flee civil conflict or economic hardship in their home countries every year in hopes of reaching Europe and Edirne is a primary migration route in Turkey.
Turkish Directorate General of Migration Management data reveals that the most migrants come from Pakistan, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers increase in late summer and autumn before dropping in the winter months. Migrants usually take boats on the Meriç River, while some try to swim across to the other side.
Turkey and the European Union signed a deal in 2016 to curb illegal immigration through the dangerous Aegean Sea route from Turkey to Greece. Under the deal, Greece sends back migrants held on Aegean islands crossed over to from nearby Turkish shores, and in return, EU countries receive a number of Syrian migrants legally. The deal, reinforced with an escalated crackdown on human smugglers and more patrols in the Aegean, significantly decreased the number of illegal crossings. However, some desperate migrants still take the better-policed land border between Turkey and Greece, especially in the winter months when a safe journey through the Aegean is nearly impossible aboard dinghies.