ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish authorities have seized a total of 330 migrants attempting to cross to the Greek island of Lesbos, officials said on Sunday.
The coastguard in the Kucukkuyu area of the western Canakkale province said it had conducted seven operations to pick up migrants trying to make the crossing since Saturday evening.
The migrants seized were Afghan, Syrian, Iranian and Iraqi nationals, it said, adding that the number attempting to cross to Lesbos had surged recently and that 699 people had been seized since Aug. 10.
Mediterranean arrivals into the European Union, including migrants making the longer and more perilous crossing from north Africa to Italy, totalled 172,301 in 2017, down from 362,753 in 2016 and over a million in 2015, according to U.N. data.
Numbers declined sharply since 2015 after Turkey, in exchange for 3 billion euros (2.7 billion pounds) in European Union aid and a promise to ease visa restrictions for Turks, began to exert more control on migrants trying to cross to the EU via its territory.
Yet many still attempt the short but perilous sea trip and Turkey remains one of the main launch points.
(Reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by David Holmes)