ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police detained 276 migrants on a cargo ship docked on the Aegean coast on Tuesday and also captured eight people trying to smuggle them out of the country, Turkey’s coastguard authority said on Tuesday.
The Turkish-flagged ship’s activities had been monitored for a long time and migrants were seen boarding the vessel in western Turkey’s Izmir province on Monday evening, the coastguard statement said.
It said an operation including coastguard vessels and police teams was launched. The migrants were from countries including Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Somalia, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.
Photographs distributed by the coastguard showed security force members watching over those detained in the ship, most apparently wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus.
More than a million people reached Greece from Turkey in 2015-16. A 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey for Ankara to take migrants back in return for funds led to a sharp fall in the numbers.
At the end of February, Turkey said it would no longer try to stop people crossing the border into Europe, prompting tens of thousands of migrants to try to cross into Greece via land and sea.
The flow slowed as the new coronavirus spread, but Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Turkey would “continue to implement its decision” regarding migrants who want to leave the country.
There are some 3.6 million Syrians in Turkey, the world’s largest refugee population.
(Reporting by Daren Butler; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Alex Richardson)