Yoga meets refugees as Turkey captures 1,800 Syrians on Aegean Sea in four days
İZMİR – Doğan News Agency
DHA photoThe Turkish Coast Guard has captured almost 1,800 migrants on the Aegean Sea as they attempted to illegally cross to Greece in just the past four days, according to figures from the state organization.
Meanwhile, 10 Syrian migrants swam back to the Turkish shore after their dinghy sank about 100 meters off the coast Aug. 11.
A total of 1,799 illegal migrants en route to Greece were caught on the Aegean in 44 separate operations from Aug. 7 to Aug. 10, while two human smugglers were also detained during the same period, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said in a written statement on Aug. 10.
On Aug. 11, 10 migrants of Syrian origin came ashore in the Yalıkavak neighborhood of the Aegean district of Bodrum after swimming from about 100 meters off shore when their dinghy to Greece began sinking.
The migrants passed through a beach club in the resort town of Bodrum while some of the guests of a hotel were doing yoga on the beach. The guests paused their activities for a while and watched as the Syrian migrants walked by and boarded a minibus to reach the city center.
Following a tip that a boat had sunk, Turkish Coast Guards launched an operation to rescue the 10 migrants but terminated the search efforts after they found no traces of anyone in the sea.
The Coast Guard Command said that of the 1,799 migrants captured within four days on the Aegean, some 609 migrants were caught in the western province of İzmir’s Seferihisar, Foça, Menderes, Karaburun and Çeşme districts in nine separate operations, while 389 of them were captured off Çanakkale’s Ayvacık district. Some 468 migrants were also seized in 20 separate operations in Muğla’s Bodrum and Marmaris districts.
On the same day, the Turkish Coast Guard rescued 330 Syrians adrift in the Aegean Sea after failing to reach Greece.
Greek coastguard accused
Several of the 330 refugees said their boat had been stopped by armed Greek coastguard officers who ordered them to dump fuel, stranding them at sea, Reuters reported. A spokesman for the Greek coastguard, Nikolaos Lagadianos, said it “categorically denied” the allegations, saying an incident had taken place off the Turkish town of Bodrum, further south, but that the Greek authorities had not been involved.
Meanwhile, fights broke out among some 1,500 migrants on the Greek island of Kos on Aug. 10, when police tried to impose order on the crowd that was waiting to complete official registration forms by spraying the jostling migrants with fire extinguishers and hitting them with batons.
Hundreds of protesting migrants demanding quick registration began blocking the main coastal road in the island’s main town, staging a sit-in.
“We want papers, we want to eat!” they chanted.
Greece’s coast guard said they had rescued 329 migrants in seven separate search and rescue incidents in the 24 hours from the morning of Aug. 10 off the coast of Lesbos and Kos.
According to figures obtained by the state-run Anadolu Agency from the General Staff, more than 50,000 immigrants who illegally crossed the borders or were in an illegal situation have been caught in Turkey since May, of whom 30,000 were Syrian refugees.
Smuggling, human trafficking
Some 1,500 people were taken into custody after trying illegally to cross into Turkey via the borders of Iraq and Iran, and legal measures were taken against around 4,000 people who tried to reach Syria, Greece and Bulgaria through Turkey.
Furthermore, in the same period, inside Turkey, gendarmerie forces and coastguard units arrested around 20,000 people in illegal situations. Smuggled cigarettes, drugs, sexual enhancement pills, alcohol, mobile phones, fuel oil, live animals, various food products, clothing and motor vehicles were also seized.
The drama of illegal immigrants risking their lives in the Mediterranean while trying to reach European countries has been worsened by the war in Syria, as human traffickers exploit Syrians’ dreams of finding a passage to Europe that often leads only to death.
Some 15,000 illegal immigrants were caught in Turkey’s territorial waters by Turkish security forces last year. It is estimated that this figure will rise to 50,000 people this year.
The official number of Syrian refugees in Turkey is approaching 2 million, with nearly 300,000 residing in migration camps. Lebanon, with a population of just 4 million, currently hosts 1.5 million refugees. In contrast, EU members only host 150,000 Syrians.