By Mesut Varol and Zafer Tayfur
VAN, Turkey (AA) – At least 329 irregular migrants were held in eastern and western Turkey, security sources and officials said on Saturday.
Security forces detained 202 irregular migrants in eastern Van province’s Ipekyolu district, the city’s police headquarters said in a statement.
Three people were arrested for human smuggling, the statement added.
Also in Baskale district of Van, 19 Afghan nationals, including seven children, were held, said the city’s gendarmerie command.
In Ayvacik district of western Canakkale province, 56 others, who intended to illegally travel to the Greek island of Lesbos, were held in a minibus, according to a security source who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
The migrants included Afghan nationals, the source added.
The driver of the vehicle was arrested on suspicion of human-trafficking.
Also in the Aegean province of Izmir’s Dikili district, 51 irregular migrants on a rubber boat were apprehended, according to the provincial coast guard command.
The migrants included 15 Syrian, three Eritrean, a Somalian, eight Central African, a Malian, two Sierra Leonean, eight Congolese, three Angolan and 10 Palestinian nationals.
Also in Izmir’s Cesme district, a Lebanese national on a rubber boat was rounded up.
All of the migrants were referred to the provincial migration offices.
Turkey has been a main route for irregular migrants trying to cross into Europe, especially since 2011 when the Syrian civil war began.
Of the migrants held in Turkey last year, the majority came from Pakistan — around 15,000 — followed by Afghans at around 12,000. Syrians totaled about 10,000.
There has been a 60-percent increase in migrant flow since 2016. The number was 31,000 in 2016.
*Mehmet Yavas in Canakkale and Safak Yel in Izmir contributed to this report