Hundreds of refugees trying to reach Lesbos intercepted

Hundreds of refugees intercepted on land, sea by Turkish forces while trying to reach Greek island Lesbos

Photo by: Russian Defence Ministry
Photo by: Russian Defence Ministry

A Turkish Coast Guard boat tows a dinghy filled with refugees and migrants in the Turkish territorial waters of the North Aegean Sea off the shores of Izmir, Turkey, February 28, 2016.

Over a thousand refugees were intercepted Friday on land and at sea while trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos in a major operation by Turkish authorities involving coast guard and helicopters.

Dikili district governor Mustafa Nazmi Sezgin reportedly said he knew of around 300 people who had been detained in his district alone. The total number was initially assumed to be 3,000 according to two Turkish officials.

According to a statement, Turkish security forces said 1,734 refugees and 16 smugglers were detained in the operation near Turkey’s Aegean coast.

On Friday Turkey and European Union leaders approved a long awaited deal which aims to halt the influx of refugees crossing into Europe, mainly through preventing people smugglers from sending refugees across the Aegean Sea into Greece.

Ankara will simultaneously welcome refugees from Greece into Turkey as the EU takes Syrian refugees from Turkey into EU countries, a proposed visa-free travel legislation for Turkish citizens will be sped up, Turkey’s EU membership negotiations will advance and the EU will input a grant as an accessory to the billions of euros Turkey has already spent on refugees.

TRTWorld, Reuters