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Turkey detains 1,300 migrants headed to Europe

Authorities have detained refugees who were allegedly preparing to sail to Greece, Turkish officials say. The sweep came just hours after the EU promised to give Turkey billions to stem the migrant crisis.

People from Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan were among the 1,300 detained, the Turkish coastguard told the Reuters news agency on Monday.

Turkish gendarmes also arrested several people smugglers and seized four boats allegedly used for human trafficking during the sweep in the town Ayvacik, on the Aegean coast.

Officials also found a body of a person washed ashore who they believed to have been a migrant.

The detained refugees were preparing to sail to Greece, Turkish authorities said.

Risking return

Some of the migrants were trying to hide in olive groves in the coastal town, considered a main crossing point to the Greek island of Lesbos, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

The detainees were sent to a repatriation center, and some of them could face deportation, according to the authorities.

The Monday sweep is the largest anti-migrant operation in recent months, coming less than a day after

the EU and Ankara agreed on a plan to control the migrant influx

to Europe.

Watch video 01:37

Surge of unaccompanied child refugees

Fleeing across Turkey

On Sunday, the European officials pledged 3 billion euro ($3.2-billion) to Turkey and the prospect of visa free travel to Turkish citizens, with Ankara promising to crack down on human trafficking and boost border security.

Turkey is also expected to raise the living standards of over two million refugees living in the country.

The Human Rights Watch activists slammed the Monday reports of detaining refugees, calling them a "stain on the EU's conscience."

"Ever since September, we have seen the Turkish authorities detaining scores of refugees, often completely incommunicado, and forcibly returning them to neighboring Syria and Iraq. This is as illegal as it is unconscionable," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty's Turkey researcher.

Some half a million people have fled through Turkey in a bid

to reach Europe

since the start of the war in Syria almost five years ago.

dj/kms (Reuters, AP)

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