333 immigrants captured en route from Turkey to Italy
MERSİN – Anadolu Agency
DHA PhotoTurkish coast guard units have captured 333 migrants, mostly Syrian refugees, in a boat as they were attempting to sail to Europe.
The coast guard’s Mediterranean region command staged the operation late on Jan. 18, capturing 333 migrants on a boat off the southern province of Mersin.
The Mersin Governor's Office said in a statement that it detected that merchant ships have often been used for the transition of migrants from Turkey to European countries in recent months.
The coast guard received a tip off that a large number of migrants would be on an 88-meter-long merchant ship sailing under the Togo flag.
The ship, named “Burçin,” started to be followed by four boats, one helicopter and one plane shortly after setting sail from the Mediterranean port of Mersin. The two boats then approached the ship and started to transfer migrants from the boats to the ship. At that moment, the coast guard started its operation, finding 333 refugees in the ship who were transferred by the boats.
The Turkish coast guard units took control of the ship and took it back to the Mersin port with the migrants on board. According to reports, the ship had been carrying the migrants to Italy.
The coast guards also started to pursue another fishing boat that attempted to escape with the migrants who it could not transfer to the ship. The captain and the migrants in this boat were captured and the boat was taken to the Kumkuyu coast in the Erdemli district of Mersin.
After the operation, a total of 333 people, a majority of whom are Syrians, were brought to the foreigners’ branch police department. A legal process has been opened against 11 Syrians and four Turks who were captured during the operation, on charges of human trafficking.
The Turkish Coast Guard captured 1,754 migrants in Mersin province alone throughout 2014.
In December 2014, a fishing vessel carrying illegal Syrian migrants sank off the southwestern province of Muğla.
The fishing boat set sail on Dec. 28, 2014 from the Gümüşlük village of Muğla’s Bodrum district and overturned in the Aegean Sea around 30 minutes after, amid strong winds. Two immigrants swam for two hours to a nearby island and were spotted by local fishermen early on Dec. 29, 2014. The locals were taken to the hospital, while rescue efforts were launched to save the eight others who the two captured immigrants said were also on the boat with them.
In a separate incident in the eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish Coast Guard rescued 131 illegal immigrants from a leaking fishing boat. The Mediterranean Coast Guard Regional Command dispatched two rescue boats to save a fishing vessel that was announced to have the possibility of sinking early on Dec. 28, 2014, off the coast of Mersin, according to a statement released by the Mersin governorate.
A total of 131 immigrants were taken to the rescue boat and brought to the Mersin harbor, where they were fed.