At least 247 irregular migrants were held in northwestern Turkey, security sources said Wednesday.
In the coastal province of Çanakkale, the Coast Guard Command during six separate operations rounded up migrants trying to cross to Greece off the coasts of Buruncu, Ahmetcealtı, Babakale and Sivrice, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media. The migrants were caught while the authorities were patrolling the coast.
The migrants included Afghan, Syrian and Iraqi nationals, as well as some from African countries.
After medical checks, the migrants were referred to the provincial refugee center for processing.
In 2018, some 268,000 irregular migrants were held in Turkey, according to the Interior Ministry. Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants looking to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
The Greek islands near Turkey's Aegean shores are favorite destinations of migrants heading to Europe. However, journeys aboard unsafe, overcrowded boats sometimes steered by inexperienced migrants often turn out deadly. Yet some desperate migrants still take the route even in winter, when a safe journey through the Aegean is nearly impossible aboard overcrowded, unsafe dinghies.