The Turkish coast guard has rescued 199 irregular migrants in the Aegean as pushbacks by Greek elements are continuing despite calls by humanitarian groups and several countries.
The irregular migrants were saved off western Izmir province’s Seferihisar, Menders and Dikili districts.
The rescued migrants were taken to the provincial migration directorate.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with the Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as a number of boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants aiming to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks, summary deportations and denying migrants access to asylum procedures in violation of international law. It also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements, which dictate that people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.
Recently, the Turkish defense ministry published a video showing Greek elements preventing the progress of a migrant boat with dangerous maneuvers, hitting the immigrants with sticks and making attempts to sink their boats.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) in March stated that reports from 2020 recorded multiple incidents in which Greek coast guard personnel, sometimes accompanied by armed masked men, intercepted, attacked, disabled and pushed back boats carrying migrants.
Besides the issue of irregular migrants, the two neighbors, allies in NATO, are at odds over a number of issues such as competing claims over jurisdiction in the Eastern Mediterranean, air space, energy, the ethnically split island of Cyprus and the status of islands in the Aegean.
Turkey, which has the longest continental coastline in the Eastern Mediterranean, has rejected the maritime boundary claims of Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration, stressing that these excessive claims violate the sovereign rights of both Turkey and Turkish Cypriots.
However, Ankara has repeatedly stressed that it is in favor of resolving all outstanding problems in the region, including maritime disputes, through international law, good neighborly relations, dialogue and negotiations.
Greece and Turkey resumed high-level diplomatic talks in January for the first time in nearly five years to try and ease tension over long-standing boundary disputes in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean. But they remain sharply at odds, and Greece has launched a multibillion-dollar military modernization program with large naval and air force orders from France and the United States.
The Greek parliament in October ratified a defense deal struck with France for the purchase of three French-made Belharra frigates, an agreement criticized by Turkey.
In September, Greece also announced that it was planning to buy another six Rafale fighter aircraft as tensions continue to flare with Turkey in the Eastern Mediterranean.
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