IZMIR/CANAKKALE, Turkey

The Turkish Coast Guard rescued at least 48 asylum seekers who were pushed into Turkish territorial waters off the Aegean coast by Greek coastal authorities, according to security sources.

The Turkish Coast Guard said Wednesday in a statement that a team was dispatched to an area off Cesme in the western Izmir province after learning of a group of asylum seekers stranded on a dinghy.

A total of 26 asylum seekers were taken to the shore, according to the statement.

Separately, another Turkish Coast Guard team was dispatched off the coast of Ayvacik in the northwestern Canakkale province and rescued at least 22 asylum seekers.

The asylum seekers’ rubber raft was pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by the Greek Coast Guard, said the sources, 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.

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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