Cyprus rescues 101 Syrian migrants on boat

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Cyprus police rescued 101 Syrian migrants after they were spotted on a drifting boat off the Mediterranean island’s southeast coast, authorities said on Tuesday.

Cypriot police said a 33-metre boat was located 18 nautical miles off the Protaras coast by a patrol vessel with over 100 people on board.

The migrants said their boat had suffered damage and they were brought to shore via inflatable craft while the vessel was anchored near a fishing harbour.

Police were told the boat set off from Mersin in Turkey, a route that has been used by people smugglers in the past.

The 101 irregular migrants – 88 men, six women and seven children – were being processed on Tuesday before being transferred to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia.

Cyprus has warned Brussels it has come under pressure from increased irregular migration flows ranking it top in first-time asylum claims in relation to its population of under a million.

Cyprus is the first European Union member to host the European Asylum Support Office permanently to help the Mediterranean island cope with a spike in migrants.

Syrian nationals account for over 26 per cent of the overall migratory influx to Cyprus from 2016 onwards.

According to available government data, the number arriving in Cyprus and applying for asylum between January and June 2019 is nearly 7,000, while the backlog of applications awaiting examination increased to 15,000.

Cyprus is located 100 miles (160 kilometres) from Syria’s Mediterranean coast, has not seen the massive inflow of migrants experienced by Turkey and Greece.