Turkey rescued nearly 80 asylum seekers, including a group pushed back by the Greek Coast Guard into Turkish territorial waters in the Aegean Sea, a security source said Monday. 

Nineteen asylum seekers were stranded on a dinghy due to an engine breakdown and were rescued off the coast of Marmaris district in Turkey’s southwestern Mugla province, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Another group of 34 asylum seekers were rescued by the Turkish Coast Guard, who were conducting a routine patrol off the coast of Bodrum district in Mugla province.

Separately, another Turkish Coast Guard team was dispatched off the coast of Ayvacik in northwestern Canakkale province to rescue 26 asylum seekers.

The asylum seekers were trying to reach Greece’s Lesbos (Midilli) Island on a dinghy and a life boat.

Security sources said the asylum seekers were pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by the Greek Coast Guard.

After routine checks, all of 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 it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.

*Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara

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