IZMIR, Turkey 

Turkey rescued at least 69 asylum seekers whose boats were pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish waters in the Aegean Sea, authorities said Tuesday.

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

A total of 40 asylum seekers were taken to the shore, according to the statement.

Turkish teams rescued 29 other asylum seekers from two dinghies off Izmir’s Foca district.

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 Gozde Bayar

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