BALIKESIR, Turkey

The Turkish Coast Guard rescued 35 asylum seekers, including women and children, who were pushed back by Greek forces into Turkish territorial waters, said security sources on Monday.

The Afghan asylum seekers initially set off for the Greek island of Lesbos (Midilli) from the city of Ayvalik in Balikesir, northwestern Turkey.

Their rubber raft was pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by the Greek Coast Guard, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Upon reaching the Turkish island of Alibey (Cunda), the asylum seekers were provided with food, drinks and medical care by Turkish officials.

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.

Turkey earlier this year opened its gates for irregular migrants wanting to cross to Europe, accusing the EU of failing to keep its promises under a 2016 migrant deal.

Turkey currently hosts over 3.7 million Syrians, making it the world’s top refugee-hosting country.

* Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara

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