Turkey’s coastguard rescued around 120 migrants trying to reach a Greek island on three dinghies early on Friday after they said their passage was blocked by Greek coastguard vessels, Reuters reports.
Drifting in the darkness in the Aegean Sea and packed into one of the dinghies stranded without a functioning motor, migrants shouted as coastguard vessels approached them off the coast of western Turkey’s Izmir province.
The migrants, including people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran and various African countries, held up small children to be rescued first by the crew of the coastguard vessel.
Last week, Ankara said it would no longer stop hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers on its territory from trying to reach Europe, after an air strike on Idlib in Syria killed 34 Turkish soldiers.
Since then, thousands of migrants have sought to reach European Union country Greece, either across the land border or by sea to various Greek islands.
Several migrants on two of the rescued dinghies said their boats’ motors were disconnected by Greek coastguard vessels to prevent them reaching the island of Lesbos, a popular destination for migrants some 25 km (16 miles) from Turkey’s coastal town of Dikili.
“They (the Greek coastguard) pulled us towards the Turkish part of the sea and left us there,” said Ahmed, from the Deir al-Zor region of northeast Syria.
“We waited for three hours. There was no one around, then we called the Turkish coastguard and they came and got us,” he told Reuters journalists accompanying the Turkish coastguard mission.