BALIKESIR, Turkey

The Turkish Coast Guard on Monday rescued 54 asylum seekers off the country’s northwestern coast. 

The group of asylum seekers, who were trying to make their way to Greece’s island of Lesbos in the Aegean Sea had embarked from Balikesir province in Turkey.

After being located, the passengers were pushed back by Greek coastal authorities into Turkish waters.

Upon being tipped off, the Turkish Coast Guard was dispatched to the area and rescued all 54 asylum seekers.

Recent months have seen multiple reports of Greek forces illegally pushing back boats of asylum seekers, endangering the passengers in the process.

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 opened its gates earlier this year to irregular migrants seeking to cross to Europe, 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 Berker

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