Turkey finds over 65,000 refugees so far in 2016

Turkish coast guards, gendarmes and police have intercepted around 65,000 refugees trying to reach Europe illegally in first quarter of 2016.

According to Anadolu Agency figures compiled from Turkish Coast Guard statistics, up to 400 people smugglers, 40 of whom are foreign nationals, have been charged with offences since the beginning of 2016.

Among these are suspects from Russia, Iran, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Iraq, Pakistan, Algeria, Palestine and Syria.

The Turkish authorities have been active in the Aegean provinces - Canakkale, Balikesir, Izmir, Mugla and Aydin - which are prime spots for refugees leaving for the EU, with many Greek islands lying within sight of the Turkish coast.

The Turkish Coast Guard saved just over 22,500 refugees so far in 2016 and Turkish gendarmes and police discovered almost 42,500 people in Aegean and Mediterranean areas.

Hundreds of thousands have made short-but-perilous journeys in a bid to reach northern and western Europe in search for a better life.

Around 172,000 migrants or refugees have crossed into Greece and Italy since the beginning of 2016, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Of the 172,089 migrants that have already have crossed the Mediterranean this year, 152,137 had reached the Greek islands as of April 4 while 19,287 people landed in Italy. Another 638 migrants landed in Spain, while 27 others landed in southern Cyprus.

During the same period, at least 714 migrants and refugees have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, with the Eastern Mediterranean route between Turkey and Greece continuing to be the deadliest, accounting for 366 migrant deaths.

According to the IOM, the number of migrant and refugee arrivals from Turkey decreased significantly in March 2016, with only 27,000 arrivals recorded - roughly half the number recorded in February 2016.

The organization estimates that some 42 percent of the newly arrived migrants and refugees were adult men, 21 percent adult women and 37 percent children.

The IOM has not recorded any deaths in the Eastern Mediterranean since the start of a new migration agreement between Turkey and European Union which has seen the return of those arriving on the Greek islands back to Turkish territory.

Over the first 15 days since the signing of the agreement, arrival numbers have fallen compared to recent months, and were much lower than the peak arrival numbers recorded last summer.

According to the Greek authorities, nearly half of the refugees who arrived in Greece are Syrians. Afghans and Iraqis make up the next largest nationality groups.

The main landing points remain the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Leros, Megisti, Kos, Rhodes and Kalymnos. Refugees who arrive in Italy and the Greek mainland usually head towards other European destinations, especially Germany.

A total of 153,099 refugees applied for asylum in Germany within the first two months of the year; almost 7,000 refugees entered Sweden; 5,500 went to the Netherlands; 1,620 to Denmark; just over 1,000 to Finland and 92 to Norway since Jan. 1.

According to the IOM, more than a million refugees crossed into Europe via the sea last year with over 3,700 people having died trying to cross it.

Source: Anadolu Agency