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Cyprus escorts 87 Syrian migrants on boat to shore

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Cyprus authorities brought 87 irregular Syrian migrants safely to shore after their wooden boat was picked up by radar sailing 20 nautical miles off the island’s south-eastern coast, police said Monday.

A Cyprus police spokesman said they located the Syrians off the coast in a 13-metre craft and the boat was escorted to shore at Larnaca on the Mediterranean island’s southern coast.

The boat was crowded with migrants – including 16 children and 10 women – who will be processed before being taken to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia, said police.

Police suspect the boat set off from Mersin in Turkey, a route often used by people smugglers bound for Cyprus.

In August, Cyprus requested fellow EU member states to take in 5,000 of its migrants to alleviate the “disproportionate pressures” it faced.

The small member state says it is on the frontline of the Mediterranean migration route with the highest number of first-time asylum seekers per capita of population.

According to available government data, the number of migrants arriving in Cyprus and applying for asylum between January and June 2019 reached nearly 7,000 with around 26 per cent coming from war-torn Syria.

Pending applications awaiting examination has reached 13,000.

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