330 irregular migrants intercepted at sea between Turkey and Greece

Turkish authorities say they have intercepted 330 irregular migrants attempting to cross to the Greek island of Lesbos on 17 and 18 August 2019.

The coastguard in the Küçükkuyu area of the western Çanakkale province said it conducted seven operations to pick up irregular migrants trying to make the crossing. The migrants are said to be from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran and Iraq.

The Aegean sea, which separates Turkey from Greece, has seen a large influx in irregular migrant movements in August. Turkish coastguard said it has intercepted nearly 700 people in the week between 10 to 18 August 2019. These irregular migrants are reported to be taking small unseaworthy boats in an attempt to reach Greece in Europe, just a few kilometres from Turkey.

These dangerous boat journeys, operated by smugglers, usually cost thousands of dollars. Many also die along the way. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a total of 859 migrants have died in the Mediterranean as of 22 August 2019.

Mediterranean arrivals into the European Union dropped from over a million in 2015 to 172,301 in 2017, according to data collected by the United Nations. The numbers declined sharply following the EU-Turkey deal in March 2016, which aimed to manage the flow of irregular migrants from Turkey to Europe in exchange for EUR 3 billion in aid and other terms.

Despite the additional border control, thousands are still attempting the dangerous and expensive journey. Turkey remains one of the main transit countries for irregular migrants wanting to reach to Europe.

It is unclear what will happen to the irregular migrants who have been picked up by the coastguard. Turkey’s Interior Ministry said it has held at least 165,000 irregular migrants throughout the country in 2019. Of those, nearly 17,000 were picked up by the coastguard. The irregular migrants are from a variety of nationalities in Asia and Africa.

Last year, the Interior Ministry said it also detained 268,000 irregular migrants. Thousands of those from Afghanistan are deported back to Kabul.

TMP – 09/09/2019

Photo credit: Orlok / Shutterstock

Photo caption: Canakkale, Turkey, 24 March 2017; Turkish coastguard patrol Aegean Sea to intercept refugees attempting to get to Greece.