Several refugees were in distress off Cyprus and were picked up by the Cypriot Coast Guard on Thursday. According to their statements, those rescued are Syrians. There were 11 children on board.
The Cypriot Coast Guard picked up 45 refugees from two boats east of the EU island republic on Thursday evening. The State Radio and Television Corporation (RiK), citing the Coast Guard, reported that these people had come from Syria. The migrants said they left the Syrian port of Tartous. Among them were eleven children.
According to the coast guard, the authorities had already rescued 37 people in distress in the southeast of the island on Wednesday. State radio reported that two of those rescued were arrested on suspicion of being smugglers.
Smuggling gangs are increasingly trying to bring migrants to Europe from eastern Mediterranean countries, such as Lebanon or Syria.
It’s a perilous journey for migrants, as the route passes the Greek island of Crete, south of Cyprus. On long trips, there is always engine damage or boat leaks.
Just last week, a major incident occurred off the Greek coast: Hundreds of migrants drowned when a fully packed fishing boat sank about 50 nautical miles off the Greek coast. Some people pay several thousand euros for the dangerous crossing – according to migrants, between 3,000 and 5,000 per person.
According to EU statistics, Cyprus has by far the highest number of asylum applications per year compared to the size of the population. So the government in Nicosia has repeatedly asked the European Union for help.