A crackdown operation by the Turkish coast guard saw the arrests of around 1,300 migrants and three suspected people smugglers yesterday, just one day after Turkey reached a political deal with the European Union (EU) to stem the flow of migrants.
The Turkish coast guard operation saw 250 police officers raid eight locations near Ayvacik, in south-western Turkey, the region from which people sail to reach the Greek island of Lesbos, reports EUobserver.
Turkish authorities have previously been accused of turning a blind eye to illegal migrants and organised people smuggling, but yesterday’s action came after the EU agreed €3 billion for migrants living in Turkey and to re-open accession talks, in return for the Turkish government’s promise to act against migrant trafficking.
Monday’s operation was focused on migrants attempting to reach Lesbos, the main EU entry point for migrants from Turkey. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said 431,989 people arrived in Lesbos between 1 January and 26 November this year, so the move was welcomed despite Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu saying after the weekend summit that he could not guarantee effective action. He warned:
“I wish I could say that the number of migrants will decline, but we cannot say this because we don’t know will be going on in Syria.”
Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis and Iranians were among those arrested in the forests and small beaches targeted, according to Turkish press agencies reported. As well as the large number of arrests, four boats and six motors were also siezed by police, and a dead man was found.
Despite the Turkish crackdown, local authorities told Greek newspaper Kathimerini that migrants continue to arrive on Lesbos saying that more than 5,000 arrived in the past two days.