By Tugba Yardimci
TRABZON, Turkey (AA) - Nearly 65,000 irregular migrants -- aiming to illegally cross to Europe -- were held across Turkey in September, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Friday.
“A total of 64,920 irregular migrants were held in a month, including 11,673 of them caught in the sea,” Gul said at a regional justice assessment meeting in the Black Sea province of Trabzon.
He added that a total of 360,256 Syrians returned to their homeland and 767 human smugglers were arrested in the same month.
“The number of registered Syrian refugees who are under temporary protection in our country is 3,667,435,” he added.
About 268,000 people were held while attempting to illegally cross to Europe in 2018 and the number is expected to reach 400,000 at the end of 2019, according to the Interior Ministry.
Underlining the Turkish efforts to solve the Syrian refugee issue, he said concrete steps will be taken on the issue.
He said the main aim is to establish a safe zone in northern Syria to ensure safe return of the refugees.
Turkish and U.S. military officials agreed on Aug. 7 to set up a safe zone in northern Syria and develop a peace corridor to facilitate the movement of displaced Syrians who want to return to their homeland.
Turkish leaders have said the U.S. is not doing enough to establish the zone, which could house some 2-3 million Syrians who fled the Syrian civil war since 2011.
Syria has been locked in a vicious civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests.
Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million others displaced, according to UN officials.
Turkey has been the main route for refugees trying to cross to Europe since 2011, when the civil war in Syria began.
* Writing by Gozde Bayar