By Huseyin Bagis
IZMIR, Turkey (AA) - Turkish Coast Guard teams not only continue efforts to end illegal crossings in the Aegean Sea, but also remain a ray of hope for irregular migrants pushed to death by Greek officers.
Irregular migrants set out on hope-filled journeys to reach Europe, leaving behind war and conflict in their homelands. However, the perils at sea often cut short their dreams and they find themselves stranded.
Anadolu Agency followed the Turkish Coast Guard on its rescue mission for migrants stranded in the Aegean Sea.
The TGSC 902 Boat Command team, which patrols the coast of the Cesme district of Izmir, received a tip off about irregular migrants who were stranded near the Bogaz Island.
Security teams rescued a total of 19 irregular migrants, including two children. There were 15 nationals from Palestine and four from Eritrea.
The late night operation was carried out in subzero temperatures and the teams distributed thermal blankets to the migrants.
After being brought to shore, they were given hygiene packages, blankets, clothes, shoes, diapers, pajamas and food to meet their daily protein needs.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, 16-year-old Ahmet Hannevi said they set out for Europe three-months-ago.
"We set off from Izmir at noon. We arrived at Chios, Greece at 3 p.m. The Greeks caught us on land. They hit us, and the women with iron sticks. They took away our phones and money and left us in the sea on a life raft.
"We know how to swim, but we had children with us. They don't know how to swim, we were very afraid," he said.
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 and international 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 people, including women and children.