Turkey on Thursday rescued 51 asylum seekers in the Aegean Sea, who were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters, according to a security official.

Turkish Coast Guard teams in northwestern Canakkale province detected a group of asylum seekers in a rubber boat off the coast of Ayvacik district, said the official on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

The asylum seekers were brought to the shore and referred to the repatriation center in the district, the source added.

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 Sena Guler in Ankara

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