By Halil Sahin
IZMIR, Turkey (AA) – The Turkish Coast Guard rescued more than 900 asylum seekers in the recent month who were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean.
Asylum seekers were seeking to cross to Europe with rubber boats to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
According to data compiled by Anadolu Agency, from June 22 to July 22, a total of 929 asylum seekers pushed back by the Greek forces were rescued. Nearly 380 of them were rescued in Izmir, 238 in Balikesir, 162 in Canakkale, 108 in Mugla, 24 in Aydin, and 18 in Antalya.
In 2019, a total of 29 asylum seekers lost their lives between Jan. 1 to July 22 due to harsh conditions at the sea. This year, the tally reached 35 in the same period.
According to the Coast Guard Command, 12,609 irregular migrants trying to cross to Greece were held between Jan. 1 and July 22. Over 880 migrants were held from July 1 to July 22.
Turkish Coast Guard lent asylum seekers a helping hand by providing them with clothes and food. Health care personnel also treated rescued asylum seekers in bad health conditions.
Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross to Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
The country earlier this year opened its gates to irregular migrants seeking to cross to Europe, accusing the EU of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.
Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world.
* Writing by Gozde Bayar