IZMIR, Turkey 

Turkey rescued 36 asylum seekers who sought help in the Aegean Sea, but were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters, security sources said on Wednesday.

The asylum seekers, who were on two life rafts, were saved by the Turkish Coast Guard off the Izmir province in western Turkey, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Acting on a tip, Turkish rescue teams were sent to a region off the Foca district.

The naval force saved the asylum seekers and disembarked them.

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.

The country earlier this year opened its gates for irregular migrants wanting to cross to Europe, accusing the EU of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.

Turkey currently hosts over 3.7 million Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara

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