Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 November 2019

Cypriot and Greek police find scores of migrants at sea and in lorry

Most of the migrants were from Afghanistan and Syria

Police and emergency services are at work ti take care of 41 migrants who were found alive in a refrigerated truck near Xanthi, northern Greece, on November 4, 2019. AFP / Stavros KARITIDIS
Police and emergency services are at work ti take care of 41 migrants who were found alive in a refrigerated truck near Xanthi, northern Greece, on November 4, 2019. AFP / Stavros KARITIDIS

Cypriot and Greek authorities found dozens on migrants on Monday, at sea and hiding in a refrigerated lorry.

Cyprus police said they towed to shore 131 migrants after they were found on an overcrowded boat off the Mediterranean island's north-west tip.

The boat with 129 Syrians, one Lebanese and an Egyptian on board was found by a patrol vessel and was towed into Latchi harbour on the island’s west coast.

Police believe the boat set off from Turkey, a route used by people smugglers in the past.

Those on board told police they had paid smugglers $2,000 each to bring them to the island, the official Cyprus News Agency reported.

Once they neared the island, the captain left the vessel on a speedboat.

Two Syrian men, aged 33 and 43, who were on a speedboat in the same waters as the migrant vessel were arrested for questioning, police said.

The migrants, including five women and eight children, will be transferred to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia.

Meanwhile in Greece, police found 41 migrants hiding in a refrigerated lorry during a routine check at a motorway in the north of the country. The migrants were mostly Afghans.

The discovery comes less than two weeks after 39 bodies were found in the back of a refrigerated lorry near London.

All were believed to be Vietnamese migrants. Two people have been charged in Britain and eight in Vietnam over the deaths.

The refrigeration system in the lorry where the migrants were found in northern Greece had not been turned on.

None of the migrants was injured but some asked for medical assistance. The driver has been arrested.

Greece is struggling with the biggest resurgence in arrivals of migrants and refugees since the 2015 migrant crisis.

Most of them are reaching Greek Aegean islands close to the Turkish coast by boat but a large number also come overland, using a river border crossing with Turkey.

In August, Cyprus asked fellow EU member states to take in 5,000 of its migrants and ease the "disproportionate pressures" it faced.

The small member state has yet to receive a response.

But Cyprus, 160 kilometres from the Syrian coast, has not had the massive inflow of migrants experienced by Turkey and Greece.

Updated: November 5, 2019 01:31 AM

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