Turkish authorities say they have intercepted a boat with 276 migrants and eight suspected smugglers on board. The ship was reportedly about to set sail.
Turkish police and coast guard officials raided a boat which was docked near the coast of Narlidere, close to the coastal city of Izmir on the Aegean sea, a report by Turkey's Anadolu news agency said.The boat was about to set sail with the 276 migrants, including 59 children, a statement said. Most of the migrants came from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Syria, Somalia and Iran, according to the news agency AP.
Anadolu did not state where the boat was headed.
The AFP news agency said that a video showed that the migrants had been "crammed into poorly ventilated compartments" on board a tanker. "Some of those arrested were having difficulty breathing," said Anadolu.
According to Reuters, the Turkish-flagged ship had been monitored for a long time. A Turkish coast guard statement said the migrants had boarded the ship on Monday evening, the agency reported.
This week, the Turkish foreign minister repeated a warning that Turkey would not hold back migrants wishing to leave if the European Union fails to stick to a 2016 deal. In the so-called "EU-Turkey Statement", Europe agreed to pay Ankara funds if it agreed to take migrants back who had come through Turkey to Greece.
Turkey claims that the EU has failed to honor its financial commitment under the deal, and has been threatening since the beginning of this year to let migrants cross its borders to Greece. In February 2020, more than 10,000 migrants in Turkey headed towards Greece, hoping to enter the EU. Many been transported in buses to the border by the Turkish authorities.
With agencies AFP, Reuters and Anadolu