Cyprus rescues 101 Syrian migrants off coast

AFP , Tuesday 14 Jan 2020

Cyprus police said they rescued 101 Syrian migrants sighted on a boat off the Mediterranean island's southeast coast on Tuesday.

A patrol vessel located the 33-metre (100-foot) boat 18 nautical miles off the resort town of Protaras.

The migrants were brought to shore on an inflatable and their damaged boat anchored near a fishing harbour.

The migrants had said they set off from Mersin in Turkey, an eastern Mediterranean route often used by people smugglers.

The migrants -- 88 men, six women and seven children -- were being processed before transfer to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia.

Nicosia has warned Brussels it has come under pressure from increased migration flows, ranking it top in first-time asylum seekers in proportion to its population.

Cyprus is the first European Union member to permanently host the European Asylum Support Office to help cope with the spike in arrivals.

But the small EU member, located 100 miles (160 kilometres) from Syria, has not seen the same massive inflow of migrants as Turkey and Greece.

Syrian nationals accounted for 33 percent of first-time asylum seekers in Cyprus in the second quarter of 2019, EU figures show.

According to available government data, the number of arrivals and applicants for asylum from January to June last year almost reached 7,000.

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