Cyprus Turns away Migrant Boat

FILE- Migrants aboard a Cyprus marine police patrol boat as they're brought to a harbor after being rescued from their own vessel off the Mediterranean island nation's southeastern coast, of Protaras, Cyprus, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA — A Cyprus police spokesman says authorities have turned away a boat carrying around 100 migrants, citing government directives banning the entry of foreign nationals to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Christos Andreou told state-run Cyprus News Agency on Saturday that police patrol vessels approached the boat as it was nearing the country’s southeastern coast late Friday and told passengers that they couldn’t disembark because of the ban. Andreou said the passengers, who were offered food, water and fuel, initially refused to change course, but eventually sailed away.

The spokesman said the chief of police has ordered stepped-up patrols around Cyprus’ coastline as well as along the 120-mile-long United Nations-controlled buffer zone that separates a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north from the internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south.

Meanwhile, Turkish Cypriot police said a boat carrying 175 Syrians that included 69 minors and 30 women landed on the shores of the Karpas peninsula in the pre-dawn hours Saturday. They were taken to a sports hall for a medical check-up. The Cypriot government accuses Turkey of channeling migrants to Cyprus, especially through the north.

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