MUGLA, Turkey

The Turkish Coast Guard rescued on Wednesday 18 asylum seekers who were pushed into Turkish territorial waters off the Aegean coast by Greek coastal authorities, according to a security source.

The coast guard was dispatched to the area after asylum seekers called for help off the coast of the Marmaris district in the southwestern province of Mugla, said the source, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking the media.

Trying to make their way in two rafts, the asylum seekers were turned back by the Greek coast guard off Cape Kadirga.

After reaching the Turkish shore, they were transferred to the provincial migration office.

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 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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