CANAKKALE, Turkey

The Turkish Coast Guard on Thursday rescued at least 17 asylum seekers off the northwestern Canakkale province after they were pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by Greece, a security source said.

The coast guard teams were dispatched to the scene when they learned that a group of asylum seekers, who were trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos, were stranded on a life boat off Ayvacik district, said the source who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

They were taken to the shore and transferred to the provincial repatriation center, it added.

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 Sena Guler

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