The Turkish Coast Guard rescued at least 16 asylum seekers whose boats were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish waters in the Aegean, a security source said Monday.

A Turkish team was dispatched to the area off Marmaris in the southwestern Mugla province after learning of nine asylum seekers stranded on a dinghy, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

After routine checks, the asylum seekers were taken to the provincial migration authority.

Separately, another Turkish Coast Guard team was dispatched to Bodrum in the Mugla province after hearing of seven asylum seekers stranded on a dinghy.

Once rescued, the asylum seekers were taken to the provincial migration authority.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Coast Guard held 80 irregular migrants, including women and children, in separate boats, off the coast of Ayvacik in the northwestern Canakkale province Monday.

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

Earlier this year, Turkey opened its gates to irregular migrants, accusing the EU of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.

Turkey hosts nearly 4 million Syrians, more than any other country in the world.

*Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara

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