The Turkish Coast Guard has rescued 468 irregular migrants who were illegally pushed back by the Greek side into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea in the past month, official figures showed.
Some 468 migrants and refugees that have been pushed back by Greece between Feb. 24 and March 24, have been rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard, bringing the total number of migrants rescued in 2021 to 1,975. Moreover, nine people were caught on suspicion of organizing illegal crossings last month.
Meanwhile, according to the Turkish Coast Guard Command, between Jan. 1 and March 24, at least four asylum seekers lost their lives during the crossings in the Aegean.
Turkey has been a key transit point for migrants and refugees who want to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
Crossing into Europe to start new lives for irregular migrants has become even more difficult due to the actions of Greece in recent months.
Greece has been illegally pushing asylum seekers who either arrived on shore or settled in camps back into Turkish territorial waters since February.
Extending its helping hand to asylum seekers, the Turkish Coast Guard has been providing them with food, clothing, and blankets. In addition, those who need medical assistance have been taken to hospitals.
Turkey and human rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
The Turkish Coast Guard on Sunday found an asylum seeker who had gone missing three days earlier when the Greek Coast Guard dumped him along with several others in the Aegean Sea.
Previously on Friday, at least three people were found dead, three others were rescued, and one was missing after the Greek Coast Guard robbed a group of asylum seekers and dumped them in the Aegean Sea.
Back in February, Greek forces assaulted 29 asylum seekers, took their valuables, and left them stranded on an island in the middle of the Meriç (Maritsa) River between the two countries.
A group of Afghan asylum seekers was also forcibly pushed back to Turkey by Greece under the pretext that they would be tested for COVID-19.
Eight of the 13 Afghans who are now living with their relatives in Turkey's central province of Karaman told Anadolu Agency (AA) that they were picked up by Greek officials from a refugee camp and put on a rubber boat to Turkish shores.
Rauf, one of the asylum seekers, said that he gave their life's savings to a human smuggler in Turkey's western province of Çanakkale for a safe passage to the Greek island of Lesbos in the hopes of a better life.
However, he faced an unexpected situation when the Greek police took him from the camp on the island and put him on a boat, on the pretext that he had to get tested for the coronavirus.
He said the group of asylum seekers was beaten up when they refused to get on the boat. They were dragged into the sea and left to die, he said, adding that his eight-month pregnant wife was also pushed into the water and beaten.
"They took everything we had, including our IDs and money, jewelry," Rauf said.
Another asylum seeker, Destker Doliti, 18, said he thought his life would take a turn for the better when he landed on Lesbos. However, the Greek police took their documents, belongings, and money by force, he added.