Turkey on Monday rescued 36 migrants, including some asylum-seekers, women and children, who were pushed back by Greek forces into Turkish territorial waters, according to security sources.
The migrants of different nationalities initially set off for the Greek island of Lesbos from Ayvacık in Çanakkale, northwestern Turkey.
They were on board rubber boats that were pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by the Greek coast guard, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
As part of the rescue operation, the Turkish coast guard detected the migrants’ location via drones and then brought them back to shore.
Upon reaching Turkey, they were provided with food and clothing by Turkish officials.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants seeking to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution. Turkey earlier this year opened its gates for irregular migrants wanting to cross to Europe, accusing the European Union (EU) of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.
Greece’s response to those trying to enter the country without prior authorization has been harsh, with at least three migrants having been killed by Greek security forces along the land border with Turkey. Many others have been battered and teargassed.
Human Rights Watch urged Greece and the EU to respect human rights in light of Turkey’s new policy of refusing to halt migrants and refugees trying to leave for Greece.
Ankara already hosts over 3.5 million Syrian migrants, more than any other country in the world and says it cannot handle another wave.
Over the last three months, the Turkish coast guard has rescued hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers off the Aegean coast after they were forced by Greece into Turkish territorial waters.
Turkish officials also said earlier last month that the Greek coast guard had attempted to sink boats carrying migrants and refugees toward the Greek islands, opening fire and hitting people on board with long sticks.