The Greek Coast Guard forced 26 asylum seekers Thursday into Turkish territorial waters off the Aegean coast, where they were rescued by Turkey.
Ten Congolese, eight Syrians, six from the Central African Republic and two Afghans, including children were rescued from a rubber boat off the coast of Kuşadası district in western Aydın province.
Asylum-seekers told Turkish authorities that they moved to Samos Island two days ago and were caught by the Greek coast guard who put them into a rubber boat to be left at sea.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for refugees and migrants aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
The latest humanitarian crisis in Idlib, caused by Bashar Assad's attacks on civilian-populated areas, has forced nearly a million people to move near the Turkish border for refuge. The renewed attacks risked another wave of migration to Turkey, which already hosts 3.7 million Syrian refugees and says it cannot take in any more. Turkey accuses the European Union of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.
In response to the lack of humanitarian and financial aid from the international community and the attack on Turkish soldiers, Ankara began allowing refugees to migrate toward Europe through land borders. Since then, thousands of migrants and refugees have flocked to the Turkish province of Edirne along the border with Greece and Bulgaria to make their way into Europe. Most recently, Turkish authorities have settled a large number of refugees and migrants, previously waiting at the Greek border at repatriation centers due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
Greece has been widely criticized for using excessive force, including the firing of water cannons and tear gas to repel incoming migrants. The Human Rights Watch urged Greece and the EU to respect human rights in light of Turkey's new policy of refusing to halt migrants and refugees trying to leave for Greece.