IZMIR, Turkey 

Turkish coastal authorities held 44 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea as they tried to cross into Europe, along with their two suspected facilitators, said the Coast Guard Command on Thursday.

A coast guard team detected a luxury sailing boat carrying asylum seekers at night off the coast of Seferihisar district of Izmir province, it said in a statement.

While the asylum seekers were taken to the shore, two suspects were arrested for allegedly organizing the illegal crossing.

Meanwhile, another asylum seeker was rescued from a rubber boat off the coast of the province’s Cesme district, after being illegally pushed back by Greek authorities into Turkish territorial waters.

All 45 asylum seekers were taken to the provincial migration authority.

Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women, and children.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.​​​​​​​

*Writing by Sena Guler in Ankara

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