17 Turks reach Greek island, to apply for asylum in Greece

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A group of Turks who reached a Greek island by dinghy from Turkey are seeking political asylum in Greece, authorities in Athens said Tuesday.

The 17 were reportedly Turkish civil servants and their families who fled a government crackdown in the wake of a failed 2016 coup.

The coast guard said the Turks, including six children, were found Monday on the eastern Aegean Sea island of Oinousses, and taken to the nearby island of Chios where a refugee center is located.

Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people since the failed coup and fired at least 110,000 others from government jobs. The crackdown was initially launched to deal with alleged coup-plotters, but critics say it has expanded to include other government opponents, such as academics, journalists and legislators.

Also Tuesday, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that local authorities detained five people who were allegedly trying to illegally cross into Greece, as well as a suspected smuggler.

They were suspected of links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the coup. Gulen denies the accusation.

The group was in a van in the western town of Havsa, near Turkey’s land border with Greece that runs along the Evros, or Meric, river when they were stopped, Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkish police seized an inflatable boat, a pair of oars and 10 life jackets.

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