Syrian refugees, seeking a better life in Europe, were increasingly trying via illegal means to leave Turkey in the past year, but usually found themselves stacked up either in small lorries or inflatable boats.
In total, the number of illegal migrants trying to sail into Europe via Turkey increased by 22 percent in 2018, according to figures released lately by the Turkish coast guard.
A total of 26,678 migrants on their way to Europe were detained off Turkey in 2018, up from 21,937 in 2017, the data showed.
The Aegean Sea remained the favorite route for most of the illegal migrants seeking to sneak into Greek islands.
A total of 25,398 migrants attempted to cross the Aegean in 2018, in contrast to 19,084 in 2017, while the rest chose the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.
Multiple factors, including bad weather conditions, makeshift boats and unskilled sailors, mostly human smugglers, made the trips quite dangerous.
Some 96 migrants, among them women, children and babies, drowned during their voyages in the past year.
As the host of the largest refugee population in the world with some 3.5 million Syrians, Turkey signed a deal in March 2016 with the European Union to help reduce the flow of illegal migration in return for financial aid and other benefits from the bloc.
In 2016, Turkish security forces intercepted more than 37,000 migrants in the seas.
"It is not always possible to prevent these people from departing Turkey and crossing illegally into Europe," said Ulku Doganay, an academic working on the refugee issue.
"The problem here is the fact that migrants are no longer willing to stay in Turkey," she told Xinhua. "And they are trying to flee the country at the risk of their lives, by using all kinds of means."
In her view, most of the Syrian refugees see no future in Turkey now due to deteriorating economic conditions and increasing hostility against them in Turkish society.
The perception of the Syrians by Turks has been worsening every day despite the fact that they have been in Turkey for more than seven years, said Doganay.
"We heard several incidents in which the Turks attempted to lynch the Syrians," she said, noting the incidents mostly were not covered in media reports.
She cautioned that such incidents across the country have been growing toward a limit that could spark a social unrest.
A video clip, in which a group of Syrian refugees danced and waved Syrian flags during New Year celebrations at Istanbul's iconic Taksim Square, went viral on social media, provoking a public outrage.
Many Turks voiced their anger on social media and asked the Syrian refugees to leave.
"Instead of dancing and enjoying here, you better go to your country and fight for yourselves," read a Twitter post.
Meanwhile, several others called for common sense to ease the tension.
"This event revealed the level of hostility and intolerance among the Turkish people," said Doganay.
She spoke of a false perception in Turkish society, as many Turks regard the Syrians as those receiving free services in education and health.
"But this is not the case," she stressed, saying the Syrian refugees are obliged to work under poor conditions for meagre earnings to be able to survive.
"Additionally, their children, facing growing racism, are not getting a decent education," the expert added.
When asked about their opinion on leaving Turkey for better opportunities in other countries, a couple of young Syrians working with a travel agency at the Taksim Square hesitated to reply.
"I don't want to lose my job here," one said, declining to be named.