Experiencing a surge in the number of asylum seekers, the police in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki say they have arrested the driver of a van carrying 26 migrants.  23 of them from Pakistan and three from Bangladesh.

Police say the driver was an Albanian who tried to escape on foot after officers stopped the van early Sunday but was caught. Authorities say police then arrested a Greek man in charge of a warehouse where officers found 12 more Pakistanis being held while the traffickers asked for money.

Police say the 26 migrants in the van were being driven to the warehouse. Officials say the 26 paid 2,000 euros (USD 2,200) each to be taken by boat across the river dividing Turkey and Greece and then by road to Thessaloniki.

The sudden rise of migrants seeking asylum in the European country is said to be due to crackdown on migrants in the neighbouring Turkey, which houses more than 3.6 million displaced Syrians. According to The Guardian, the renewed fighting in Syria appear to have spurred the jump. In August, Turkish authorities reported a sevenfold increase in those making the crossing into Greece. Nearly half of the 56,000 refugee and migrant arrivals in Europe this year have come through the Greek islands, according to the UN.

(With inputs from agencies)