ADDS NEW RESCUES IN BALIKESIR, IZMIR PROVINCES; CHANGES HEADLINE, SPOT
By Mirac Kaya and Halil Fidan
BALIKESIR/IZMIR, Turkey (AA) – The Turkish Coast Guard rescued 35 asylum seekers as a boat carrying them sank in the Aegean Sea, security sources said on Monday.
They were pushed back to Turkish territorial waters by the Greek Coast Guard.
According to the asylum seekers rescued, the boat was damaged by the Greek forces before being pushed back, and that made it sink off the Ayvalik district of the Balikesir province.
The search for four missing passengers is ongoing, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
Separately, Turkish Coast Guard also rescued 40 asylum seekers off Ayvalik, who were pushed by Greek forces to Turkish territorial waters.
The asylum seekers, including women and children, initially set off for the Greek island of Lesbos from the Ciplak Island in the Aegean Sea.
The naval forces in northwestern Turkey saved the asylum seekers and disembarked them.
Off the coast of Turkey's western Izmir province, the Turkish Coast Guard teams rescued 24 asylum seekers in two life rafts near the Dikili district, who were also pushed back by Greek forces.
They were later referred to the provincial immigration center.
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.
* Jeyhun Aliyev from Ankara contributed to this story