A total of 680 undocumented migrants have been held in Turkey since Monday, according to security sources and Turkish military on Tuesday.
In a statement posted on its official website, the Turkish General Staff said 629 people were held when they attempted to cross the Turkish borders through illegal means.
Out of the 629 migrants, 404 of them attempted to cross into Turkey from Syria, 51 made attempts from Greece, 173 others attempted to cross into Greece and another migrant tried to cross into Turkey from Iran.
Greek port on edge as more migrants try to stow away to Italy
The migrants bolted across a street and clambered over a fence into the Greek port at Patras, scouting around for trucks to stow away in.Dozens at a time scaled a 2-km stretch of fence one afternoon last week, playing cat-and-mouse with police officers who pushed them back only for the men to try again hours later.They are part of a growing number of migrants in Greece trying daily to smuggle themselves onto ferries at Patras to get to Italy. It's a dangerous passage but it has become more appealing since the closure in 2016 of the overland Balkan route to northern Europe.A few hundred, mostly young Afghan or Pakistani men, squatted in abandoned factories facing the port and showered in water that ran yellow from rusty pipes.At night, with fewer officers on patrol, a Reuters team witnessed groups breaking into locks to get into trucks or crawling under tarpaulins."Get down! Get down from there!" an officer with the coast guard's special forces squad yelled at a man peering at him from the undercarriage of a truck lined up for embarkation control, who was then handcuffed and escorted away.Video: Despite dangers, migrants attempting to stow away to Italy at Greek port riseAuthorities arrested 760 people hiding in trucks or carrying forged travel documents at Patras in January and February, close to a third of the total of 2,627 arrests in 2017, according to official data. In 2016, 1,040 people were arrested.Those arrested are held at most overnight before they are released, and many try their luck again the following day.Images from an X-ray van showed hideouts not visible to the naked eye: two men were discovered lying on their backs in a fuel tank. Another crouched beneath watermelons.The route from Patras, one of two ports linking Greece to Italy, is not new but when Europe's refugee crisis began in 2015 and nearly a million people landed in Greece on boats, taking the overland road to countries like Germany was a safer option.When those borders closed in March 2016 and a European Union deal with Turkey stranded over 50,000 refugees and migrants in Greece, Patras started buzzing again, said Dimitris Kyriakoulopoulos, a coast guard captain overlooking the port."What we're dealing with here is a gradual increase in the number of these people," he said.Anger is simmering among truck drivers, who sometimes chase migrants away with sticks, fearing arrest if a stowaway is found among their freight.One driver, who gave his name as Harry, climbed into his truck to find three migrants hiding among stacks of aluminum last Thursday night."It's awful. It doesn't get more awful than this and no one takes responsibility," he said.No one can say how many migrants make it across. Italian authorities returned 147 people to Greece last year, up from 112 in 2016 and 44 in January and February, according to Greek data.Italy's Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.Across the port in the squat, migrants spoke of their friends who made it to Italy and said they, too, would keep at it despite the risks."Everything is dangerous," said Arshad Wardak, 24, from Afghanistan. "You have to go through all the suffering to get into a better place. So this is why everybody is trying."
EU to offer Turkey more funding for Syrian refugees before Erdoğan meeting
The European Union's executive is due to approve a further 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in funding for Syrian refugees living in Turkey, EU officials said, before a meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan later this month.Europe's relations with Erdoğan have been fraught in recent years but the EU depends on Turkey to keep a tight lid on immigration from the Middle East, where the war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands and pushed millions from homes.Top EU officials will meet Erdoğan on March 26 in the Bulgarian city of Varna.The bloc's top migration official Dimitris Avramopoulos will announce on Wednesday that the European Commission proposes the extra funding on projects benefiting Syrian refugees in Turkey, the sources told Reuters.Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria, and the EU is already spending a first 3 billion euro instalment to help them.Over a million more refugees and migrants reached the EU in 2015, most of them flowing through Turkey. Brussels agreed to pay to help host migrants on the Turkish soil in exchange for Ankara preventing more from trying to cross the Aegean to Greece. This reduced the numbers to a trickle.The EU will also release in April what the sources said would be a "critical" report on Turkey's accession bid.
Meanwhile, the coast guards detained 51 foreign nationals in simultaneous operations when they stopped inflatable boats, which were carrying the undocumented migrants, in the Cesme and Dikili districts of western Izmir province.
Syrians and Afghans were among the migrants, who were attempting to illegally cross into Greece.
Turkey is the main route for refugees trying to cross into Europe, especially since start of the civil war in Syria.