ISTANBUL: Turkey’s coast guard said on Monday it rescued 44 migrants stuck on an island after they attempted the crossing to Greece.
The coast guard said in a statement that it dispatched two helicopters and one boat following a rescue request call by a migrant. Aerial footage showed groups of people on an island off the coast of the western province of Balikesir.
Videos showed coast guard officers aiding women and children to board its ship. The statement did not specify the nationalities of the migrants but said they included 13 children.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants have set out from Turkey’s coasts in the past few years to try to reach neighboring Greece, which is a member of the European Union. A deal with the EU in 2016 to send those migrants back to Turkey significantly curbed the number of border crossings but many desperate migrants still attempt the journey.
The Turkish coast guard has intercepted more than 23,500 people this year.
Separately, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Monday made his first official visit to Morocco, where he pushed for greater cooperation between the two countries on tackling migration.
Spain has this year become the main entry point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, the majority departing from Morocco.
“Migration is a shared responsibility and we must reinforce our cooperation in this area,” Sanchez said following talks with his Moroccan counterpart Saad Eddine el Othmani.
More than 50,000 migrants have crossed into Spain so far this year, according to figures from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
Madrid has for months been pressing the European Union to unlock funds for Morocco to better tackle people smuggling into the bloc.
Throughout the year, numerous Spanish ministers and officials have travelled to Rabat to discuss security issues and migration. Sanchez was accompanied by a government delegation for his first visit to the North African nation since taking office in June.
Othmani said Morocco was doing “all that is in its power regarding the fight against illegal immigration”.
Moroccan authorities say that between January and the end of September they stopped some 68,000 illegal attempts to cross into Europe and dismantled 122 people smuggling gangs.
“The migration question is complex and it cannot be resolved solely through a security approach, despite its importance, it’s necessary to favour the development of departure countries in Africa,” said Othmani.