Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

Cyprus rescues 120 Syrian migrants

The convoy included 20 children

Migrants on an overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month. AP
Migrants on an overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month. AP

Cyprus has rescued 120 Syrian migrants from a boat adrift off the island's southeastern coast.

The convoy included 20 children, 14 of which were unaccompanied minors, and three women.

The incident happened on Wednesday in the Cape Greco region after their vessel was sighted six nautical miles (11 km) off the east Mediterranean island.

On Thursday a further 16 people were found alive in the back of truck on a ferry heading to Ireland from France.

The men were aged between 20 and 40 and said they had travelled from Belgium up to five days ago.

The migrants rescued in Cyprus have now been taken to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia.

The migrants told police they had crossed the Syria-Turkey border and the boat sailed from Mersin in Turkey, a route previously used by people smugglers.

Those on board said they had paid $4,000 (Dh14,691) each for the journey to the smugglers, who managed to get away.

In August, Cyprus requested that fellow European Union member states take in 5,000 of its migrants to alleviate the "disproportionate pressures" it faced.

The small EU member says it is on the front line of the Mediterranean migration route.

Available data shows the number of migrants arriving in Cyprus and applying for asylum between January and June 2019 reached nearly 7,000.

The backlog of applications has increased to 15,000.

Cyprus, which is 160 km from the Syrian coast, has not seen the massive inflow of migrants experienced by Turkey and Greece.

Earlier this week 26 migrants were discovered alive, some in refrigerated containers, aboard a cargo ship near a Dutch port heading for the UK.

Crew members were said to have discovered the migrants on board the ship when it was a few kilometres out to sea.

Last month, 39 bodies were found in the back of a refrigerated lorry near London.

Updated: November 21, 2019 06:43 PM

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