Turkey rescued at least 44 asylum seekers who were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, security sources said on Tuesday.

The asylum seekers were rescued from a rubber boat off the coast of Ayvalik in Turkey’s northwestern Balikesir province, the Turkish Coast Guard Command said in a statement.

Authorities brought the group, including women and children, to Alibey Adasi, where they provided them food and medical supplies, it noted.

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.

Turkey and human rights groups have 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.

* Writing by Ahmet Gencturk in Ankara

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.