IZMIR, Turkey

Turkey rescued 56 asylum seekers, including a group pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, a security source said on Thursday.

Due to engine breakdown, 32 asylum seekers got stranded on a dinghy and were rescued off the coast of Cesme district of Turkey’s western Izmir province, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Another group of 24 asylum seekers, who were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters in the same region, was rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard.

After routine checks, the asylum seekers were taken to the provincial migration authority.

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.

Earlier this year, the country opened its gates to irregular migrants seeking to reach Europe, accusing the EU of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.

Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece’s illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying that it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.

*Writing by Havva Kara Aydin

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