Hundreds of illegal migrants caught in Turkey
ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish police have detained 219 Iraqis and six Afghans believed to have crossed illegally over Turkey's eastern border, the governor's press office in Van province said on Tuesday.
The migrants were discovered in separate operations at the weekend in Van, a mountainous region bordering Iran. Most were found travelling on foot, others had stowed away in the back of a lorry or hidden in smugglers' homes, an official said.
The largest group of migrants entering Turkey is from neighbouring Iraq, but each year hundreds of thousands of people from across the Middle East, Africa and Asia also use Turkey as a transit route on their way to affluent European Union (news - web sites) nations.
Brussels has urged Turkey, a European Union candidate, to do more to stem the flood of economic migrants, but observers say Ankara is ill-prepared financially and administratively to deal with the large numbers.
Thousands of kilometres of coastline, unpatrolled frontiers and poor police checks at border points make Turkey an attractive springboard for migrants hoping to reach Europe.
Police near Istanbul discovered on Monday the bodies of three Bangladeshis who had suffocated in the back of a container truck probably bound for the border into Greece.