The number of irregular migrants held in Turkey has visibly increased in the last five years, the country's interior minister said Thursday.
Suleyman Soylu made the remark while briefing the national assembly on Migration Management in Turkey, the interior ministry said in a statement.
Turkey has become a target country for irregular migrants in addition to its being a transit point for them to reach Europe, Soylu said.
There has been a visible increase in the number of irregular migrants [caught in Turkey] in the last five years, while it averaged 50,000 [a year] until 2014, he said, adding a total of 373,468 irregular migrants were held so far in 2019.
Soylu said 171,967 migrants including 93,123 Afghans, 13,549 Pakistanis and 65,295 of other nationalities have been sent back to their countries in the last three years.
He said there are 5,074,908 foreigners in Turkey, noting of these, 3,680,603 are Syrians under temporary protection, 1,070,144 are foreigners with residency permits and 324,161 are under international protection.
Turkey has been a key transit point for irregular migrants aiming to cross to Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.
More than 39,000 irregular migrants and refugees have reached Europe by sea since the beginning of 2019. As many as 840 died at sea, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
At least 30,500 migrants died between 2014 and 2018 while making the treacherous journey to Europe, the IOM said.
Source: Anadolu Agency