At least 12 people were killed and 20 others were injured after a minibus carrying illegal migrants crashed in eastern Turkey’s Van province on Sunday.
The identities of those killed in the accident were not immediately clear.
According to the authorities, the crash occurred in Van’s Muradiye district, where the vehicle caught fire after tumbling into a ditch.
Among the dead were 11 migrants and a person who helped organize their illegal transport, the authorities were quoted as saying.
The injured were taken to hospital and the owner of the bus was detained, they added.
Situated near Turkey's eastern border with Iran, the city of Van is used as a crossing point for migrants on their long journey to reach Europe, with many coming from Afghanistan.
In July 2020, a boat carrying up to 60 migrants sank in Lake Van.
Medical teams, firefighters, security forces as well as emergency personnel from Turkey's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) were dispatched to the scene.
Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum-seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Migrants – mostly from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – regularly cross the Iranian border into Turkey on foot before being ferried west to cities such as Istanbul and Ankara.
Journeys often turn lethal, be it a short journey to Greece by sea aboard unsafe boats or in overcrowded minibuses and trucks.
Turkish security forces rescued or held some 352 irregular migrants over a 24-hour period on Monday and Tuesday last week across a number of provinces in Turkey.
According to a statement, security units were tipped off that a large group of foreign nationals were at a social establishment located on the highway.
All 101 migrants, who had entered Turkey at different times, were held and two suspected human traffickers were arrested.
In the Belen district of southern Hatay province, at least 28 migrants who were all Syrian nationals and had illegally entered the country were held.
Acting on a tip, security teams stopped three vehicles and identified the migrants, according to local security sources.
While the migrants were sent to the local migration office, legal action was initiated against the three Syrian drivers.
Separately, a Turkish coast guard team was dispatched off the coast of Ayvacık in northwestern Çanakkale province to rescue 25 asylum-seekers.
The asylum-seekers were trying to reach Europe by sailboat, according to a statement by the Coast Guard Command.
Another 43 asylum-seekers, who were pushed back by the Greek coast guard into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, were also rescued in Çanakkale.
Four suspects were arrested for alleged human trafficking while the asylum-seekers were sent to the local migration office.
Another group of 25 asylum-seekers was rescued by the Turkish coast guard, who were conducting a routine patrol off the coast of Bodrum in Muğla province.
Turkey and human rights groups have 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.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements that outline 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.
Turkey already hosts nearly 4 million Syrian migrants, more than any country in the world. Officials say the country cannot handle another refugee wave.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.
The deal has been successful in stemming the flow of migrants and refugees, but the EU’s reluctance to take in refugees from Turkey, and bureaucratic hurdles in transferring promised funds for refugees, have led to sharp criticism from Turkish politicians.
Ankara criticized the EU for failing to fulfill its pledge to provide funding for migrants and refugees in Turkey as part of the pact while allocating billions of euros to Greece.
Five years on, the pact is failing as Turkey struggles with increased numbers of migrants, while the EU is more divided than ever over its asylum policy.
"The proposed new financial aid package is for Syrian refugees, not Turkey, and is essentially a step to be taken to ensure the EU's own peace and security. Reducing migration cooperation to just a financial dimension is a big mistake. Aiming for close cooperation in this area would be beneficial for everyone," it said.
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