IZMIR, Turkey

The Turkish Coast Guard on Thursday rescued a total of 46 asylum seekers separately making their way in the Aegean Sea in two boats off the coast of Izmir province.

A Coast Guard vessel was sent to the coast of Dikili district upon being alerted to a life raft filled with stranded asylum seekers, according to the statement by Turkish Coast Guard Command.

A total of 24 asylum seekers, who had been pushed back by Greece to Turkish territorial waters, were rescued.

Meanwhile, another Coast Guard boat was dispatched to the coast of Madra Creek, located between the Izmir and Balikesir provinces.

After calling for help, 22 more irregular migrants adrift in a rubber dinghy due to engine failure were saved.

The asylum seekers were transferred to the provincial migration authority after routine checks.

Recent months have seen multiple reports of Greek forces illegally pushing back boats of asylum seekers, endangering the passengers in the process.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross to 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 Merve Berker

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