Turkish coast guard rescues 125 migrants, refugees in Aegean

Turkish coast guard rescues 125 migrants, refugees in Aegean

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The Turkish Coast Guard Command on Monday rescued 125 migrants and refugees in three different operations conducted near the Aegean coasts of northwestern Çanakkale province’s Ayvacık and Bozcaada districts.

Five rubber rafts carrying 69 people who were rescued off the coast of Ayvacık were reportedly pushed back into Turkish territorial waters by the Greek coast guard.

Twenty-nine others were later rescued off the coast of Ayvacık.

Another 27 migrants and refugees were found off the coast of Bozcaada after their boat was disabled by an engine breakdown.

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 migrants and refugees wanting to cross to Europe, accusing the European Union 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 (HRW) urged Greece and the EU to respect human rights in light of Ankara's new policy of refusing to halt migrants and refugees trying to leave for Greece.

Turkey already hosts over 3.5 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world, and says it cannot handle another wave.

So far this year, Turkey's Coast Guard Command has rescued hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers off the Aegean coast after they were forced by Greece into Turkish territorial waters.

Turkish officials have also said Greece's coast guard has attempted to sink boats carrying migrants and refugees toward Greek islands, opening fire and hitting people on board with long sticks.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) last week voiced alarm over reports of pushbacks and collective expulsions of migrants, some with incidents of violence, from Greece.

“IOM, together with partners, are closely monitoring the situation and have received reports of migrants being arbitrarily arrested in Greece and pushed back to Turkey and violence perpetrated against migrants by some border personnel,” the global migration agency said in a statement.

“The organization calls on Greek authorities to investigate these allegations and testimonies given by people forced to cross the Greece-Turkey border,” it added.

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