VAN/BATMAN, Turkey

At least 148 irregular migrants were held in eastern and southeastern Turkey, local sources said on Sunday.

As part of probe into migrant smuggling and human trafficking, local gendarmerie forces conducted an operation in Van province where they found the migrants in a minivan, said the Governor’s Office. 

While two of the migrants were found dead inside the overcrowded vehicle, remaining 70 migrants were held by the security teams. 

The asylum seekers included 37 Pakistani, 33 Afghan and two Iraqi nationals.

At least three human smuggling suspects, identified by the initials C.O., S.H. and H.O., were arrested. 

Separately, security teams in southeastern Batman province identified 78 irregular migrants of Afghan and Pakistani origin.

Security sources said the migrants were on board two buses. 

While four drivers were arrested for human smuggling, migrants were sent to local migration office.

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

*Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara.

Copyright 2021 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.