Over 177,000 irregular migrants detained in Turkey in 2019 – Interior Minister

Turkish authorities have detained 177,654 irregular migrants as of July 29, Turkey's Interior Minister, Süleyman Soylu, said on Friday.

Soylu said the number would reach 300,000 by the end of 2019, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The authorities detained 175,752 irregular migrants in 2017 and 268,000 in 2018, according to the minister.

After a growing discontent among Turks against the large population of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Ankara has started operation on July 12, particularly in the city of Istanbul, to apprehend undocumented migrants, consisting of people from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Morocco, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Algeria.

Rights group Human Rights Watch on July 27 said Turkish authorities are detaining and coercing Syrians into signing “voluntary return” forms and then forcibly returning them war zones in Syria, including the last major rebel-held enclave Idlib which is currently under attack by Damascus.

“We didn't send anybody (to Idlib). I emphasize that," Anadolu quoted Soylu as saying.

The minister added that approximately 35,000 Syrians had gone to Idlib willingly for the Eid al-Fitr holiday following the holy month of Ramadan in June.

Turkey has also been implementing a radar system on its coastlines on the Aegean, Black and Mediterranean seas.

"There will not be a single square centimetre left (uncovered by the radar system) in our seas", Soylu said.

From 2011 to 2016, Turkey had an open-door policy to Syrian refugees, giving them temporary protection status. At least 3.6 million documented Syrian refugees are now living in Turkey.