ANKARA – The Turkish coast guard on Sunday stopped five boats carrying dozens of illegal migrants, mostly from Myanmar, who were trying to reach the Greek island of Lesbos, local media reported.
A coast guard vessel spotted the boats about 4 miles off the shore of Dikili town in Izmir province as they tried to reach Lesbos, the private Dogan news agency reported.
The coast guard stopped the boats and took the migrants back to shore, where they were handed over to the police.
Most of them were from Myanmar.
“There is a planned massacre against Muslims in the country we live,” one of the migrants told Dogan, saying the combination of danger and poverty had forced them to leave.
His remarks suggested they were members of Myanmar’s Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority that has been targeted by violent attacks and state-sanctioned discrimination in the Buddhist-majority state, earning them a reputation as one of the world’s most persecuted peoples.
The numbers of people reaching Greece from Turkey have declined since an EU-Turkey deal went into effect on March 20 under which all migrants landing on the Greek islands fare sent back.
Before the deal, the numbers arriving each day had numbered in the thousands. On March 22, 1,662 people arrived, but this fell to 600 on Tuesday and 260 on Wednesday.