Cyprus Police Scoop Up 35 Syrian Migrants Arriving Via Boat

FILE - Rescue workers from the Proactiva Open Arms Spanish NGO retrieve the bodies of an adult and a child amid the drifting remains of a destroyed migrant boat off the Libyan coast, on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Proactiva Open Arms via AP)

NICOSIA — While Greece is the first destination for Syrian refugees fleeing a civil war, another 35 who landed on Cyprus via boat in two separate groups were detained by police on Sept. 1, authorities said.

Police said a patrol boat spotted a speedboat loaded with 25 Syrians off Cape Greco on the island’s southeastern tip. The eight men, eight women and nine children were in good health, but a pregnant woman was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Also the same day, police tracked down 10 Syrians on the island’s northwestern tip, who said they had arrived by boat. The group was taken to a migrant reception center.

The arrival of the 35 comes less and a day after police located another 24 Syrian migrants who had arrived by speedboat, also in the Cape Greco area.

In May, the government said 10 families of Syrian refugees, from Lebanon and Jordan, would be resettled in the country under an agreement with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). The agency head on Cyprus, Natasa Xenophontos-Koudouna, said it was part of fulfilling the government’s commitment to refugees.

At that time, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) noted the danger of refugees and migrants trying to reach Cyprus by boat after eight bodies washed up on the north of the island.

A UNHCR report said the tragedy showed the need to fight human smuggling from Turkey, where they go after fleeing war and strife in the Middle East, hoping to be accepted into a European Union country.
The organization said that the number of asylum seekers in Cyprus was rising markedly, mainly due to the conflict in Syria, the Cyprus Mail reported.

In 2014, the number was 1,887, in 2015 it was 2,108, in 2016 it rose to 2,871, and in 2017 to 4,499. Some 1,372 people applied for asylum in the first three months of 2018.

The UNHCR said separately with less than 10 percent of asylum seekers in Cyprus being hosted at the Reception Centre in Kofinou, decent housing was the major problem facing thousands of asylum seekers.