Turkish coast guard units rescued 134 irregular migrants in the Aegean Sea, Turkish officials said Monday.
A total of 100 asylum-seekers were held in the town of Çeşme in Turkey's Aegean province of Izmir.
According to a statement from the Turkish Coast Guard Command, a sail boat was stopped off the coast of Alaçatı in Çeşme.
The 100 asylum-seekers on board were later handed over to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management.
Meanwhile, the Turkish Coast Guard Command also rescued 34 irregular migrants in waters off the coast of Dikili district in Izmir after they were pushed back by Greek forces in the Aegean Sea.
The irregular migrants, including women and children, were also sent to the Provincial Directorate of Migration Management.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees leaving Turkey for the European Union, with 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 and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the European Union of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Between January 2020 and March 2021, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) documented around 300 reported incidents of illegal expulsions around the Aegean islands and Greece's northeastern land border with Turkey. Several migrant support groups, including the Greek Helsinki Monitor, in May filed a complaint with the European Court of Justice against Frontex, the EU's border monitoring agency.
A joint investigation by several international news outlets reported in October 2020 that Frontex had been complicit in maritime pushback operations to drive away migrants attempting to enter the EU via Greek waters. A month later, Brussels-based news outlet EUobserver revealed that Frontex exchanged letters with Greek authorities about Athens' orders to push back migrants to Turkish waters.
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.
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