With more arrivals rising on Greek islands, Turkey’s Coast Guard said it caught 203 illegal migrants along the Aegean shore as they were trying to sneak onto Greek islands already holding more than 15,000 of them.
Thirty-nine migrants, including children and babies, were seized on a small inflatable boat off the Bodrum district in Turkey’s southwestern province of Mugla, while 53 Syrians were detained off the provinces of Aydin and Canakkale, the officials said.
On land, 111 illegal migrants preparing to head for Greek islands via sea routes were caught in three locations in Izmir, the Coast Guard said in a statement on its web site, adding that five human traffickers among the many that have been allowed to operate during a suspended European Union swap deal were also caught.
A total of 4,451 migrants have attempted to reach the Greek islands via Turkey this year, up from 3,781 over the same period in 2017, according to figures released by the Turkish Coast Guard.
Under the deal that began in 2016 and markedly reduced the numbers, Turkey is supposed to take back those not eligible in Greece, where another 50,000 are being kept in detention centers and camps on the mainland. Only a relative handful have been returned.