At least 85 illegal migrants were intercepted in northwestern Çanakkale province yesterday, according to security sources. Turkish Coast Guard teams patrolling the Ayvacık district spotted a group of people on a rubber boat off Behramkale village's coast, said the security source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. The teams prevented 58 illegal migrants - all Afghan nationals - including women and children, from crossing to the Greek island of Lesbos, the source added.
The coast guard rounded up another 27 illegal migrants, including Pakistani and Afghan nationals, off Burunucu in the Ayvacık district. All of the migrants were referred to the provincial repatriation center.
Turkey has been a main route for illegal migrants trying to cross into Europe, especially since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began.
Despite the deadly risk, migrants still take the dangerous route to Greece via the Aegean Sea almost daily from western Turkish shores. Paying high sums to smugglers, they board small boats that often capsize due to overcrowding.
Tight patrolling by the Turkish Coast Guard in the region is credited with preventing possible disasters. Yet, 63 people were killed in separate incidents this year so far when their boats sank in the Aegean and Mediterranean seas.
Figures for the first eight months of 2018 show that the number of illegal immigrants intercepted while trying to cross into Europe from Turkey increased 37 percent compared to the same period last year.
This year, the coast guard has stopped 16,617 people of different nationalities so far. An 80 percent drop was recorded in crossings in August, the lowest compared to the same month in 2017, although nine were killed trying to cross into Greece.
DAILY SABAH WITH AA