Turkish Coast Guard units rescued 36 asylum seekers off the coast of Balikesir province after their boat was pushed back into Turkish territorial waters by Greek authorities, the Coast Guard Command said late Tuesday. 

Coast guard teams rushed to the area after receiving information that there was a group of asylum seekers in a rubber dinghy off the coast of Ayvalik county, it said in a statement.

The asylum seekers were taken to the Coast Guard Command Center on Cunda Island.

Turkiye and human rights groups have 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.

Turkiye has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

It already hosts 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world, and is taking new security measures on its borders to humanely prevent a fresh influx of migrants.

*Writing by Merve Berker

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