The Turkish Coast Guard Command reported that irregular migration from Turkey to Greece over the Aegean Sea has dropped 96 percent in the first five months of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.
According to the report, the number of irregular immigrants Greece has declared was 156,723 from January to May 2016, and this figure has dropped to 6,372 in the same period of this year, a 96 percent decline.
The report also says that the increased capacity of the Turkish Coast Guard Command played an effective role in preventing irregular immigration. Accordingly, in the first part of 2016, the Coast Guard intercepted 10 percent of irregular immigrants, but in the same period this year, its capacity to intercept increased 50 percent.
The Coast Guard Command has two continuous operations, Operation of Aegean Hope and Operation Safe-Med, with the participation of 2,500 personnel, 65 Coast Guard boats, two search and rescue ships, 10 helicopters and three aircraft. The report also says that 78 human smugglers and 2,539 illegal migrants were arrested in 81 operations conducted in the first half of the 2017.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration (IOM) recently reported that the Turkish government has responded to the increasing migration rate by rescuing nearly 135,000 migrants and refugees since 2015, while also continuing to take effective measures in response to the issue as thousands flee the country in efforts to reach Greece.
In a bid to curb the refugee influx, Turkey and the European Union signed a deal in 2016. They envisaged a "one-for-one" formula under which irregular migrants in Europe would be returned to Turkey while documented Syrian refugees would be resettled in EU states under a quota system.The agreement, backed by tighter coast guard patrols on the Aegean to stop the illegal smuggling of migrants, led to a significant decline in the number of crossings. The Aegean shores that were previously teeming with refugees and migrants waiting to board boats heading to the nearby Greek islands are now calm, save for occasional groups.