UPDATES WITH IRREGULAR IMMIGRANTS HELD IN BITLIS, IZMIR, CHANGES HEADLINE, DECK, LEDE
By Ozgun Tiran, Meric Urer and Sener Toktas
KIRKLARELI/BITLIS, Turkey (AA) - Turkish security forces rescued a total of 255 irregular migrants throughout the country Thursday.
Security sources said at least 23 asylum seekers claiming to have been beaten and deported by Bulgarian authorities were held in northwestern Turkey.
The Syrian and Iraqi nationals were held by gendarmerie teams in the villages of Ahlatli and Beyci in Kofcaz district and in an area near the Derekoy Border Gate in Kirklareli province bordering Bulgaria, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
The asylum seekers told Turkish forces they had crossed the border but were arrested by Bulgarian police who beat them, took away their valuables and left them on the Turkish side of the crossing.
After routine medical checks, they were first sent to the provincial gendarmerie command and then transferred to a local repatriation center.
Meanwhile, 28 irregular migrants were held in Tatvan district in eastern Bitlis province, according the provincial governorate.
Another 204 asylum seekers were rescued while trying to illegally cross the border in Urla district of Izmir province.
The asylum seekers were rescued by gendarmerie teams upon calling an ambulance for help.
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 hosts nearly 4 million refugees, more than any other country in the world.