The Turkish Coast Guard intercepted 4,214 "irregular migrants" en route to the Greek islands from Turkey's Aegean coast within the first three months of 2018. The figures show the crossings almost doubled compared to the same period last year, when 2,324 people were intercepted before and during the deadly journeys to the islands.
The highest number of intercepted migrants was in January, at 1,634. The majority of them were Syrians while the number of Afghan migrants also increased. A total of 232 Afghan migrants were held in first three months of this year en route to Greece. Once swarmed with dinghies packed with migrants, the Aegean Sea was relatively calm in the winter, compared to the past years, however, migrants are still trickling in to the nearby Greek islands. The decline is largely thanks to a deal between the EU and Turkey two years ago.
Syrians refugees have long comprised the majority of migrants crossing over to Europe from Turkey, which hosts the largest Syrian refugee community in the world, at above 3.5 million. After the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011, more displaced people arrived in Turkey, a rare safe haven for refugees in the region. As a result, the number of people seeking to reach Europe via the country also increased.