The number of refugees trying to illegally travel by road to Europe from Turkey increased more than twofold in 2015 compared with 2014 and almost 12 times compared with 2013, Turkish official data suggests.
A total of 1,905 people were captured last year by customs officers in the northwestern province of Edirne, bordering Greece and Bulgaria, according to data provided by the Edirne’s Customs and Trade Regional Directorate.
The vast majority of the captured were detained at the Kapikule border crossing which is linking the country to Bulgaria, the figures reveal.
Customs officers found 1,711 people in the trailers of trucks stopped at Kapikule border crossing, while 122 were held at Hamzabeyli, 57 at Ipsala and 15 at Derekoy border crossing.
A total of 835 people were caught in 2014, while only 159 people were captured in 2013.
The Edirne gendarmerie has set up special units to capture people smugglers.
Since the beginning of this year, 56 people have been detained by the gendarmerie units, with 35 of them being remanded into custody.
A total of 23 people were caught during the same period in 2014 and 2015. Four of them were remained into custody.
Record refugee numbers at Aegean
Turkey’s Coast Guard has also reported that an 11-times year-on-year increase in the number of refugees without proper papers captured in the country’s Aegean region.
Almost 8,500 refugees were found during Turkish Coast Guard operations in February 2016, 11 times higher than the same month in 2015, officials told an Anadolu Agency correspondent on Tuesday.
Many of these refugees were trying to reach nearby Greece illegally using inflatable boats and fiberglass vessels.
In addition, the Turkish authorities have reported that 14,000 refugees were found in the first two months of this year alone.
This is in stark contrast to the first two months of 2015 when the Turkish Coast Guard found 5,535 refugees in January and 753 refugees in February.
Thirty-seven people died by drowning or hypothermia in the Turkish waters of the Aegean Sea in February.
Turkey’s Aegean provinces - Canakkale, Balikesir, Izmir, Mugla and Aydin -- are primary spots, which are located near several Greek islands in the Aegean Sea, for refugees aiming to reach the European Union (EU) countries.
Over the past year, hundreds of thousands of people have made short-but-perilous journeys in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search for a better life.
Of the more than 1.1 million refugees who arrived in the EU last year, more than 850,000 arrived by sea to Greece from Turkey, and 805 people died in the Aegean, according to the International Organization for Migration.