ISTANBUL, March 26 (Xinhua) -- The Turkish coast guard has rescued at least 189 illegal immigrants in six separate incidents off Turkey's Aegean coast, the coast guard announced on its website during the last three days.
Five of the incidents happened when Greek coast guard teams pushed the boats carrying migrants to several Greek islands on the Aegean Sea back to Turkey, according to the announcements.
In one incident, 31 migrants were rescued off the Datca district in the southwestern province of Mugla after they were put on a small lifeboat by the Greek coast guard at the Simi island and left to be dragged on the sea.
In another one that happened off the western province of Izmir, the Turkish teams saved 29 refugees in three inflatable boats which were tied to each other by Greek coast guard teams.
The Turkish guard also saved 24 migrants off Izmir when their inflatable boat was stranded at sea over an engine failure.
The Aegean Sea was once the main route for migrants trying to sneak into Europe via Turkey. A deal was signed between Ankara and the European Union in March 2016 to curb the flow of illegal immigration.
As part of the agreement, Turkish authorities stopped a total of 60,802 illegal immigrants from reaching Greece via Turkey last year, according to figures released by the Turkish coast guard.
However, the Turkish government last month decided to allow the refugees to cross the Aegean Sea to Greece after it said it would no longer cope with the burden of over 3.7 million refugees in the country.
But later, following the order of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the coast guard announced that the sea was closed to all passages.
Since the beginning of this year, the force said a total of 8,836 illegal immigrants have been rescued or apprehended on the Aegean Sea on their way to Greek islands, up from 4,261 in 2019.