Refugees arriving in Erzurum, western Turkey | PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/ERDEM SAHIN
Refugees arriving in Erzurum, western Turkey | PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/ERDEM SAHIN

Almost 80,000 migrants and refugees were detained by Turkish authorities in the first four months of 2019 while trying to illegally cross borders to Europe.

Turkish interior ministry figures show that 79,002 people were intercepted from January 1 to April 25. Most were Afghans (32,942), followed by Pakistanis (11,691), and Syrians (6,432). 

The number of people who reached the EU from Turkey in the same time period reportedly dropped from 8,332 last year to 6,864 this year. 

There was a sharp drop in the number of Syrian nationals transiting through Turkey (-55 percent). Repatriation rose by 79 percent for Pakistanis and 70 percent for Afghans. 

Many migrants intercepted on Aegean coast 

Last year, according to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, 268,003 migrants were detained in Turkey because they were in the country without permission - often, while they were on their way to leave the country and transit to Europe.

Many were intercepted... 
... on the Aegean coast, from which they left in rubber dinghies or other vessels headed towards Greek islands, 
... or in the northwestern Thracia region near the land border with Greece and Bulgaria. 

Rising especially sharply were attempts to cross the Evros river, the natural border between Turkey and Greece, during which several people died. 

Numerous reports were made by migrants of forceful push-backs by Greek border police, who have denied the accusations. 

Greece wants border control efforts stepped up 

During a visit to Istanbul last month, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Markos Bolaris said that, from Turkey, "we witnessed a significant increase of migratory flows, both at sea and land borders, in 2018, which amounted to 37 percent." 

He added that "we acknowledge the fact that Turkey makes great efforts to manage the flows and is particularly burdened with refugees from conflict zones. It is, however, necessary, to step up efforts to control the flows with the ultimate goal of bringing them to a halt." The Greek and Turkish goverment, he said, had agreed on measures to improve the information exchange between the two countries and to work together in the fight against smuggling networks.

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