The Turkish Coast Guard intercepted 99 irregular migrants trying to get into Greece’s Lesbos Island, security forces said Sunday.
The three dinghy boats carrying the migrants were stopped off the coast of the western province of Çanakkale. The group consisted of Syrian, Palestinian, Afghan, Senegalese, Congolese and South African nationals.
All of the migrants held were either taken to hospitals for medical treatment or transferred to provincial migration offices for the necessary legal proceedings.
In 2018, some 268,000 irregular migrants were held in Turkey, according to the Interior Ministry. Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants looking to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
The Greek islands near Turkey's Aegean shores are favorite destinations of migrants heading to Europe. However, journeys aboard unsafe, overcrowded boats sometimes steered by inexperienced migrants often turn out deadly. Yet some desperate migrants still take the route even in winter, when a safe journey through the Aegean is nearly impossible aboard overcrowded, unsafe dinghies.