The Turkish coast guard on Wednesday rescued 149 irregular migrants off the coast of western Çanakkale province.
A Naval Forces patrol ship identified three boats carrying irregular migrants in the Müsellim Passage of the Aegean Sea off the district of Ayvacık, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Twitter.
An operation was then carried out by Turkey's coast guard to rescue the 149 migrants, who were apparently headed to the nearby Greek island of Lesbos.
As the conflicts, poverty and violence continue in the Middle East, Asian countries and Africa, Turkey has become a popular hub for illegal migrants seeking to cross into Europe. Greek islands in close proximity of Turkey's Aegean shores are favorite destinations of migrants heading to Europe. However, journeys aboard unsafe, overcrowded boats often steered by inexperienced migrants turn out deadly.
Turkey and the European Union signed an agreement in 2016 aimed at reducing the number of illegal migrants on the dangerous Aegean Sea route. The deal stipulates that Greece is to send migrants held on its Aegean islands back to Turkey. In return, Turkey is to send Syrian migrants it hosts to various European Union countries. The deal also saw an escalated crackdown on human smugglers and increased sea patrols to prevent immigrants from attempting to cross. For a while, it helped reduce the number, but many migrants still risk the dangerous crossing.
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