NICOSIA, Cyprus — A 24 year-old Syrian man believed to be among 43 other Syrian migrants to reached Cyprus on two rubber dinghies has been found dead in waters just off the island’s western coastline, Cypriot police said Thursday.
A police spokesman told the Associated Press that the man was likely aboard a dinghy whose occupants were told to swim to shore from a distance of around 60 meters (200 feet) so that the craft could speed off quicker.
An autopsy will be performed to determine the exact cause of death.
Police scrambled a helicopter and patrol boats to search for the man after other dinghy occupants reported him missing.
The other dinghy dropped off its passengers, including two women and nine minors with the youngest being 3 years old, on the beach near the village of Peyia.
The spokesman, who spoke on customary condition of anonymity, said both dinghies departed from Antalya, Turkey, some 300 kilometers (185 miles) away.
The latest arrivals come three days after another 92 Syrian migrants, including six women and 11 minors, arrived aboard three boats in separate instances. Authorities have arrested five men in that case.
Cyprus has been coping with a steady migrant influx over the last three years, with authorities saying the number of asylum seekers has reached 5% of the ethnically divided island’s population of 920,000 — five times the average of any other European Union member country.
The vast majority of migrants arrive to the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriot north through Turkey and cross a United Nations-controlled buffer zone to apply for asylum to authorities of the internationally recognized government in the Greek Cypriot south.