Turkish security forces captured some 69 illegal immigrants as they were preparing to head for Greece from Turkey's Aegean coast yesterday.
Police in İzmir's Çeşme district stopped 29 Syrians, who had gathered at a beach awaiting a boat to take them to the Greek island of Chios. The Syrians were later sent to an accommodation facility for refugees in the city.
Meanwhile, in Çanakkale, 40 illegal immigrants from Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali were intercepted at the Sokakağzı Cove as they were preparing to board a boat heading for the Greek island of Lesbos.
Since January, Turkish Coast Guard has intercepted 5,118 migrants in the Aegean Sea and apprehended 32 human smugglers. In the meantime, 19 migrants died when their boats capsized.
Migrants, who often travel on rubber dinghies, risk their lives to reach nearby Greek islands from the Turkish coast. In 2015, more than 857,000 migrants arrived in Greece, most of them through Turkey, according to the International Organization for Migration. But, this figure fell by more than 79 percent to just 177,000, the following year.
In a bid to curb the refugee influx, Turkey and European Union signed a deal in 2016. They envisaged a "one-for-one" formula under which failed asylum-seekers in Europe would be returned to Turkey, while documented Syrian refugees would be resettled in EU states under a quota system.
The agreement, backed by tighter coast guard patrols on the Aegean Sea to stop the illegal smuggling of immigrants, led to a significant decline in the number of migrants. The Aegean shores that were previously teeming with refugees waiting to board boats heading to the nearby Greek islands are now calm, save for the occasional group of illegal immigrants.
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