The Turkish coast guard rescued a total of 74 illegal immigrants off Turkey’s Aegean coast, local media reported on Wednesday.

Turkish teams retrieved the migrants from two rubber boats near the Ayvalik district of Turkey’s northwestern province of Balikesir, the Demiroren news agency said, without mentioning when the incident occurred.

The migrants claimed that the Greek coast guard teams drove their boats back to the Turkish territorial waters, according to the agency.

Since the beginning of this year, a total of 13,435 migrants attempted to reach Greece via Turkey’s seas, down from 19,516 over the same period in 2019, according to the latest figures released by the Turkish coast guard.

The Aegean Sea was once the main route for migrants trying to reach Europe via Turkey. A deal was signed between Turkey and the European Union in March 2016 to curb the flow of illegal immigration.

Hosting over 3.7 million Syrian refugees in its territory, Turkey earlier announced that it could no longer cope with the issue alone, and urged European countries to take more responsibility.

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