UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS
By Yusuf Soykan Bal and Safak Yel
IZMIR, Turkey (AA) - Nearly 300 asylum seekers have been held in western Turkey for attempting to reach Europe illegally, a security source said Tuesday.
Acting on a tip off, provincial security teams rounded up a total of 276 asylum seekers on a boat off Izmir's Narlidere coast, while eight others were arrested over allegations of being smugglers.
The asylum seekers included Afghan, Bengali, Syrian, Central African, Somali and Iranian nationals brought from different locations in Turkey.
During the operation, security teams found at least 46 women and at least 59 children in a closed and air-tight compartment on the boat. Some of the asylum seekers evacuated from the boat had difficulty breathing.
Due to its geographical location and conflicts in neighboring regions, Turkey has been one of the main routes for asylum seekers seeking to start a new life in Europe.
The deadly civil war in Syria has been one of the triggering factors behind large-scale migration to the continent.
Turkey hosts nearly four million Syrians, more than any other country in the world.
*Writing by Merve Aydogan in Ankara