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Migrant Crisis Turkey rescues dozens from Aegean rocks

Turkish coast guards on Thursday rescued dozens of migrants stranded on rocks off western Turkey when their Greece-bound vessel hit trouble.

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The inflatable boat, carrying 51 migrants, started to sink in the waters of the Aegean off Dikili, the official Anadolu news agency reported play

The inflatable boat, carrying 51 migrants, started to sink in the waters of the Aegean off Dikili, the official Anadolu news agency reported

(AFP/File)
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Turkish coast guards on Thursday rescued dozens of migrants stranded on rocks off western Turkey when their Greece-bound vessel hit trouble.

The inflatable boat, carrying 51 people, started to sink in the Aegean sea not far from the coastal town of Dikili, the Turkish coast guard said in a statement.

Television footage showed the stricken vessel bobbing up and down next to a rocky outcrop, while a coast guard helicopter hovered above to conduct a rescue.

In the initial stage of the operation, five children and a woman were winched to safety by the helicopter team, the coast guard said.

Eventually, all 51, including 15 children, were rescued and brought back to Dikili port.

Earlier reports had put the number on board at 68.

Among the group were migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Angola and Somalia, State-run news agency Anadolu said.

Nine people were taken to hospital, it reported. There was no indication of any casualties.

Over a million people, mainly fleeing the war in Syria, crossed to European Union member Greece from Turkey in 2015 after the onset of the bloc's worst migration crisis since World War II.

Turkey struck a deal with the EU in 2016 in a effort to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, and agreed to take back illegal migrants landing on Greek islands in exchange for incentives including financial aid.

The deal, chastised by rights groups, sharply curbed the number of migrants seeking to cross the Aegean Sea.

Migrants were sent back to Turkey from the Greek islands in the initial weeks after the deal was signed, but afterwards the pace slowed drastically.

Recently however, eight migrants were brought back to Dikili from the island of Lesbos and taken to refugee camps inside Turkey, Anadolu reported Thursday.

The return comes after Greece's Kathimerini daily reported Athens persuaded Turkey to accept migrant returns from the mainland in order to reduce critical overcrowding in its refugee camps.

Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the first visit of a Turkish head of state to Greece since 1952.

The trip was strained after Erdogan spoke about revising borders and criticised Greek treatment of its Muslim minority, although officials on both sides described it as hugely productive.

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