Turkey’s coastguard service has said it detained a boat in the Aegean Sea heading for Europe which was carrying more than 200 Afghan migrants. The vessel was believed to be en route to Italy.

A boat carrying 231 migrants, most of whom are from Afghanistan, was detained by the coastguard, Reuters and Turkish media reported on Wednesday. 

Two Turkish nationals, who were allegedly in charge of the vessel, were also detained. The migrants have been taken to a deportation center in the west of Turkey, according to state-affiliated news channel TRT World.

Footage from the broadcaster reportedly filmed in the small coastal town of Babakale showed the migrants being transported to port and sitting on the ground by the harbor. 

Turkey seizes a boat carrying more than 200 Afghan migrants in the Aegean Sea heading for Europe

An official from Turkey’s coastguard told Reuters that the group were believed to be heading to Italy. More than 200 of the 231 were from Afghanistan, the coastguard said, adding that others hailed from Syria, Iran, Eritrea and Pakistan. Turkish channel Halk TV claimed the migrants paid as much as $7,000 to traffickers for passage to Italy. 

The number of people making a bid to reach Europe has reportedly risen significantly in recent weeks, amid increasing violence and conflict in Afghanistan. Turkish authorities detained around 1,500 migrants last week.

Last Friday, 37 people were rescued from a migrant boat which sank off the south coast of Turkey. Eight people were unaccounted for.

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