The Turkish coast guard has rescued 526 irregular migrants since Dec. 13 that were pushed back by Greece, the command said Tuesday.
From Dec. 13-25, "in a total of 52 incidents, 991 irregular migrants and 10 migrant smugglers were apprehended, and 526 irregular migrants pushed back into our territorial waters by Greek assets were rescued," it said in a statement.
The statement also highlighted Turkey's efforts to prevent irregular migration and illegal activities on a 24/7 basis and to assist anyone in need of help at sea while respecting human rights and both domestic and international law.
The command also expressed Turkey's concern over rising casualties along migration routes due to Greek security forces' pushback tactics and pressure policy, forcing irregular migrants to change course directly to Italy.
Greek officials' unfortunate statements blaming Turkey show how unserious they are about addressing the situation, it added.
Meanwhile, the Turkish coast guard on Tuesday rescued 88 irregular migrants, including 56 who were pushed back by Greek authorities in the Aegean Sea.
While 56 of the migrants were rescued off the coast of Bodrum district, 32 others were rescued off Fethiye district in southwestern Muğla province.
Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, stating it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees seeking to leave Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees often sink or capsize. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece are key transit points for migrants looking 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, which is a violation of international law. Ankara also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements that say people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life or safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a social or political group.