The Turkish coast guard rescued 21 migrants and refugees in the Aegean Sea after they were pushed back by Greek authorities, a statement released by the Coast Guard Command said Monday.
Coast guard teams moved to the area following a tip that there were migrants and refugees on life rafts off the coast of Datça district in Turkey's Muğla province.
After routine checks, they were taken to the provincial migration authority.
Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Turkey, which already hosts 4 million refugees, more than any country in the world, is taking new security measures on its borders to prevent a fresh influx of migrants.
Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued 5,693 irregular migrants that were pushed back by Greek forces in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas in the first half of 2021, according to data from the coast guard’s website.
The Greek government has repeatedly denied the accusations.
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 Evros land border with Turkey.
Several migrant support groups, including the Greek Helsinki Monitor, in May filed a complaint at the European Court of Justice against Frontex, the European Union's border monitoring agency.
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