Turkey’s coastguard and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced on Wednesday that the country’s security authorities intercepted a boat carrying more than 200 irregular Afghan migrants in the Aegean Sea heading for Europe.
According to a coastguard official, the boat boarded by the detained migrants was believed to be en route to Italy.
The official said that 208 of the 231 detained migrants were Afghans, while the rest came from Syria, Iran, Eritrea and Pakistan.
The coastguard also took into custody two Turkish nationals steering the migrant vessel and escorted accompanied migrants to a deportation camp in the Turkish urban city of Ayvacık which is located in Çanakkale province.
Security forces also said that five alleged smugglers were suspected of assisting migrants to illegally enter Turkey. Two out of the five suspects were arrested while the remaining three were released on bail.
The Turkish government has been grappling with the rampant illegal crossings and contraband trafficking in the country as it faced a massive influx of Afghan migrants in recent weeks.
According to authorities, the latest refugee wave is due to the escalating violence between the Taliban and the government in Afghanistan.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has been building a wall along the country’s eastern border with Iran in the province of Van, where many migrants were caught illegally entering the country.
“To ensure the safety and security of the Turkish-Iranian border, a 295-kilometer (183-mile) long wall will be constructed along the entire shared border,” Emin Bilmez, the governor of Van, said in a statement on Tuesday.
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