Turkish coast guard on Monday rescued dozens of irregular migrants stranded on Yumurta island in the Aegean Sea, sources said.
At least 44 migrants, including 13 children, were rescued during the operation in northern Aegean, off the coast of Balıkesir’s Ayvalık district, according to the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
The search and rescue operation, launched after one of the migrants called the emergency service, was carried out with two helicopters and a boat.
Turkey has been a main route for irregular migrants trying to cross into Europe, especially since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began.
Turkey’s seas, particularly the Aegean in the west, have seen a large influx recently with more migrants boarding dinghies to reach Europe. They travel in overcrowded and unsafe boats to reach Greek islands scattered across the Aegean and only a few kilometers away from Turkish shores. Deaths are common in crossings as many migrants, despite paying thousands of dollars to smugglers, are forced to travel in rubber boats crowded far beyond capacity.
Numbers provided by Turkish Coast Guard Directorate shows 20,320 illegal migrants – formally referred to as irregular – were intercepted in the Aegean Sea which Bodrum is situated on, between January and Oct. 22. Fifty-six people perished in the same period after their boats sank. Security forces also captured 42 smugglers between January and October 2018.
In March 2016, the EU and Turkey reached an agreement to stop irregular migration through the Aegean Sea, and improve the conditions of more than 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey. An exchange program that would return migrants that previously entered Europe to Turkey and settle Syrian refugees in EU countries failed to curb the migrant flow, as the high number of illegal migrants intercepted by Turkey indicates.
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