File photo courtesy Turkish Coast Guard
ISTANBUL, March 13 (Reuters) – Turkish coastguards found more than 300 refugees, mostly Syrians, when they seized a cargo ship they had opened fired on for failing to obey an order to stop off Turkey’s western coast, the regional governor said on Friday.
Refugee trafficking in the seas around Turkey is a major problem. Turkey itself has kept its borders open to refugees since the start of Syria’s civil war four years ago, and around 2 million people have fled across the frontier.
Police arrested three crew and found the 337 immigrants after seizing the 59-meter-long vessel late on Thursday as it passed through the Dardanelles strait.
The passengers were taken to a nearby sports hall for questioning and health checks, the local governor’s office said.
Canakkale Governor Ahmet Cinar told reporters the coastguards were only able to stop the ship by opening fire on the engine room and locking the rudder.
Nobody was injured during the operation and the ship was docked at the Gelibolu port, Turkish media said. (Additional reporting by Isla Binnie in Rome; Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Jonny Hogg and Alison Williams)
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