Authorities in northwestern Turkey on Monday rounded up some 1,300 asylum seekers and migrants allegedly preparing to make their way into Greece, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported.
Some 750 migrants were detained in a pre-dawn sweep in the town of Ayvacik, in Canakkale province, which is a main crossing point to the Greek island of Lesbos, the Anadolu Agency reported. By the afternoon, authorities had detained 550 more people, some of whom were trying to hide in olive groves.
The migrants were put into buses and taken to a small, overcrowded detention center for foreigners awaiting deportation, the private Dogan news agency said.
The move came a day after Turkey and EU leaders sealed a joint summit with a commitment to re-energize Turkey’s long-stalled membership bid and bolster their resolve to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed the reports of detentions, calling them “alarming but not surprising.”
“Ever since September, we have seen the Turkish authorities detaining scores of refugees, often completely incommunicado, and forcibly returning them to neighboring Syria and Iraq. This is as illegal as it is unconscionable,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty’s Turkey researcher.
In the wake of this weekend’s EU-Turkey migration talks, it’s a stain on the EU’s conscience too.”
It was not clear if Monday’s sweep was directly related to the Turkish commitment to help contain the flow of migrants and officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Anadolu said the migrants were from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
Four suspected smugglers were also detained in the sweep while four migrant boats and six boat motors were seized.
During the sweep, authorities also discovered a body which had washed up on the shore, suspected to be that of a migrant.
SOURCE: The Associated Press