News - Afghanistan
Turkey's coastguard intercepted dozens of migrants at sea on Saturday as they continued to attempt perilous sea crossings to Greece despite Turkey's efforts to stem the flow under a deal with the European Union.
Reuters reported that a group of 51 people from ten different countries including Cuba, South Africa, Afghanistan, Myanmar and Iran were taken to a repatriation center after being ushered to safety, the Turkish coastguard said.
"I am coming from Cuba for here. I am originally (from) Cuba. But I get to Nigeria for here. My mother is in Spain now," one of the migrants, Ari, said.
This comes after at least five migrants drowned after a boat carrying Afghan and Iranian migrants to the Greek island of Lesbos sank off the coast of Turkey last Wednesday, Turkey's state-run Anatolian Agency reported.
The Turkish Coast Guard, using speedboats, rescued nine people and recovered five bodies, including a baby, in the Aegean Sea near the town of Ayvacik, it said.
Three of the rescued migrants suffering from dehydration were admitted to hospital.
Rescue work was underway for two migrants who were reportedly missing.
Under the draft deal struck on Monday, Turkey agreed to take back all irregular migrants in exchange for more funding, an earlier introduction of visa-free travel to Europe for Turks, and a speeding up of Ankara's long-stalled EU membership talks.
The aim, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU leaders have said, is to discourage illegal migrants and break the business model of human smugglers who have fuelled Europe's largest migration crisis since World War Two.
The message, they say, is simple: try to cross illegally and get sent straight back.
EU and Turkish officials are scrambling to finalize the deal before their next summit on March 17-18, and Turkey said the bloc had largely accepted Turkey's terms.
But the United Nations and human rights groups have warned that blanket returns without considering individual asylum cases could be illegal.
More than 130,000 people this year have reached Europe from Turkey, which borders Iran and conflict zones in Syria and Iraq, while 350 people have died on the perilous journey, according to the International Organization for Migration.
More than 35,000 people are trapped at the Greek-Macedonian border at Idomeni as Europe tries to close the Balkan route to foreigners fleeing violence and economic upheaval.