At least 22 irregular migrants have been rescued in the Aegean Sea off Turkey's southwestern coast, security sources said late Sunday.
The migrants requested help from the Turkish Coast Guard when the boat carrying them got stuck off the Datça district of Muğla province, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media.
All of the migrants -- most of whom are Syrian, Palestinian and Iraqi nationals -- were referred to provincial migration office.
Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants aiming to cross to Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Turkey and the European Union signed a deal in 2016 to curb illegal immigration through the dangerous Aegean Sea route from Turkey to Greece. Under the deal, Greece sends back migrants held on Aegean islands after they crossed over from nearby Turkish shores, and in return, EU countries receive a number of Syrian migrants legally.
The deal, reinforced with an escalated crackdown on human smugglers and more patrols in the Aegean, significantly decreased the number of illegal crossings. However, some desperate migrants still take the route.
According to the official figures, almost 180,000 irregular migrants have been held so far in 2019.