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60 migrants rescued off Cyprus

By AFP - Aug 15,2023 - Last updated at Aug 15,2023

A handout obtained from the Cypriot government's Joint Rescue Coordination Centre on Tuesday shows a fishing boat with migrants on board and Arabic writing on its hull after sending a distress signal while sailing off Cape Greco in southeastern Cyprus the night before (AFP photo)

NICOSIA — Cypriot authorities rescued 60 migrants in an overnight operation after their boat got into difficulty 15 nautical miles off the Mediterranean island's southeast coast, officials said on Tuesday.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) said the rescue operation was completed successfully on Tuesday, with 54 men, three women and three children brought safely to shore.

They are expected to be transferred to a migrant reception centre on the outskirts of the capital Nicosia.

Two marine police patrol boats, two speed boats, a helicopter and a volunteer rescue vessel were involved in the rescue operation off Cape Greco, near the resort town of Ayia Napa, the JRCC said in a statement.

"Around 8:00 pm (17:00 GMT) on Monday, August 14, the Centre received information about a boat with migrants in danger, which was sailing 15 nautical miles east of Cape Greco," the statement said.

There were no details of the nationality of the migrants or from where the boat set sail. Police would only confirm the rescue took place.

Authorities say there has been a rise in the number of migrants arriving by boat this year, with a 60 per cent increase recorded in the first five months compared to the same period of last year.

According to the Aliens and Immigration Unit, most irregular migrants arriving by sea board boats in the Syrian port of Tartus which are usually detected off Cape Greco.

European Union member Cyprus argues it is a “frontline country” on the Mediterranean migrant route, with asylum-seekers making up 5 per cent of the 915,000 people living in government-controlled areas of the island — the highest proportion in the bloc.

Asylum applications between May and July were down 53 per cent on last year, falling to 4,976 claims, while the government has ramped up migrant returns. 

Returns of failed asylum seekers have exceeded 4,370 so far this year, sharply up on the 2,353 recorded for 2022, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said last month.


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