The Turkish coast guard intercepted 21,473 irregular migrants in 2021, up from 19,368 in 2020, according to data shared by the Coast Guard Command on Tuesday, APA reports citing Daily Sabah.
The data, which was based on information obtained from Jan. 1 to Dec. 6, also showed that some 97 human smugglers were detained in 2021, compared to 46 in 2020.
Meanwhile, 13 irregular migrants lost their lives while trying to seek asylum in the past year, 24 people less than the previous year.
The Coast Guard Command has also carried out joint operations with the Gendarmerie General Command, detaining 1,967 irregular migrants and 41 organizers in 46 incidents of irregular migration, the statement added.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees sank or capsized. The Turkish coast guard has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece have been key transit points for migrants, fleeing war and persecution, looking to cross into Europe to start new lives.
Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks and summary deportations without migrants being given access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. It also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements that dictate people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life and safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership in a social or political group.
In a recently published report, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) revealed that migrants at EU borders still face difficult conditions and violations of rights in detention and reception centers.
The report also noted that pushing migrants back to Turkey has become the de facto border policy of Greece and that torture, ill-treatment and pushbacks continue.