Istanbul, July 28 () - The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued more than 20,000 migrants in multiple operations in the Aegean Sea since the beginning of this year, according to figures from the body.
As many as 20,166 migrants trying to illegally migrate to different countries from Turkey were rescued in 629 operations in the Aegean Sea and a total of 42 human traffickers were arrested between Jan. 1 and July 24 of this year.
A total of 18,598 migrants en route from Turkey to Europe were rescued and a total of 39 human traffickers were arrested between Jan. 1 and July 20, the İzmir Governor’s Office said, adding that another 1,568 migrants alone were rescued between July 20 and 24.
Another three human traffickers were also detained between the most recent dates.
Between July 15 and July 20 alone, 1,782 migrants were rescued, with a human trafficker arrested, in 43 operations in the Aegean Sea, the statement said.
Some 918 were rescued in 19 operations in the Ayvacık district in the northwestern province of Çanakkale, while 176 others were rescued in two operations in the Ayvalık district in the western province of Balıkesir over the five-day period, it added.
The other 688 migrants were also rescued in a total of 22 operations held in the Aegean provinces of İzmir, Muğla and Aydın.
Geographically located between war-torn Syria and Iraq in the southeast and the European Union member states of Bulgaria and Greece in the northwest, Turkey has come to be a transition point for foreign migrants looking to illegally cross into the EU in an endeavor to flee the violence in Iraq and Syria as well, as have a higher standard of living.
The wave of migration across the Aegean Sea, however, has sometimes resulted in injuries and even deaths due to either the capsizing of migrant-carrying boats or abuse of migrants by human traffickers.
In July this year, two capsizing incident occurred, leaving seven migrants dead.
Six Syrian migrants died after their Greece-bound boat from Çanakkale sank in the Aegean Sea on July 15 and 10 others, including two children and four women of Syrian origin, were rescued.
In a separate incident, a migrant was killed and 29 others went missing when a migrant-carrying boat sailing to Europe capsized off the Aegean coast on July 7.
The boat, carrying a total of 37 migrants, who were mostly Syrian, capsized off the Didim coast in Aydın after setting sail in the early hours of the morning from Fener Bay. Witnesses immediately informed the Turkish Coast Guard of the incident.
More than 135,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Europe by sea in the first half of 2015, many of them fleeing war, repression and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.