Turkish Coast Guard intercepts 70 refugees in Aegean Sea

Turkish Coast Guard intercepts around 70 refugees in Aegean Sea, day after reaching deal with EU to halt illegal migration flows into Europe in return for financial aid and political rewards

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Refugees board Turkish Coast Guard Search and Rescue ship after a failed attempt of crossing to the Greek island of Chios off the shores of Izmir, Turkey, Feb. 28, 2016.

Turkish Coast Guard vessels intercepted around 70 refugees off coastal town of Dikili in Turkey’s western province of Izmir on Saturday, only a day after authorities detained 1,734 refugees trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos and 16 smugglers in a major operation involving coast guard ships and helicopters.

The move came as Turkey and European Union reached a deal aimed at halting refugee flows into Europe mainly through preventing people smugglers from sending refugees across the Aegean Sea into Greece.

According to the deal, Turkey will simultaneously welcome refugees from Greece into Turkey as the EU takes Syrian refugees from Turkey into EU countries.

In return, EU will provide visa liberation for Turkish citizens and add an accessory funding to the already spent billions that Turkey has provided for the refugees it hosts.

The United States described the agreement as an important step, saying that it is also ready to increase support to countries affected by the flow of refugees.

"We commend language in the agreement affirming that all refugees deserve access to protection and which makes clear the agreement will be implemented in full accordance with EU and international law," the US State Department said in a statement.

Earlier on Saturday, the Turkish Coast Guard rescued 21 refugees whose boat sank off the southwestern coast of Cesme District, but a four-month-old Syrian baby girl was found dead.

Of the more than 1 million refugees, who arrived in the EU last year, more than 850,000 arrived by sea to Greece from Turkey, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Over the course of the year, 805 died in the Aegean.

TRTWorld and agencies