Ankara, Nov 23 () - The number of migrants saved after making failed attempts to cross via sea from Turkey into Europe has increased by over 500 percent in 2015 compared to last year.
In 2014, the number of migrants rescued by Turkey’s coast guard and local institutions was 14,961, in 574 separate incidents, according to Prime Ministry figures.
So far this year, the number is 79,489 migrants in 2,133 incidents. In addition, more than 200 smuggling gangs have been targeted in security operations launched by the authorities over the last two years.
Turkey, the main launching pad for migrants fleeing to Europe in search of better lives, is under pressure to impose stricter controls on human smuggling into the European Union.
Earlier this week, visiting Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoğlu vowed to step up cooperation between their migration services and coastguards to beat the scourge of human trafficking.
Ankara and Athens agreed to “urgently start cooperation” at the level of foreign ministers as well as migration and coastguard authorities, in order to fight trafficking networks and grant legal resettlement rights for migrants, Tsipras said at a joint press conference following talks with Davutoğlu on Nov. 18. As a first sign of the new mechanism, the Greek coastguard commander had been holding talks in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, he noted.
Thousands of refugees, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, make daily attempts to cross the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greek islands, a short but perilous trip by boat, often in rough seas.
Thousands of predominantly Syrian refugees have braved the short crossing from Turkey this year, mainly in flimsy and overcrowded inflatable boats.
Inflows have increased recently as refugees try to beat the onset of winter, crossing the narrow sea passages between Turkey and Greece on overcrowded boats.