Man detained for Smuggling Syrians to Cyprus

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A 44-year-old man was detained in Cyprus police custody on suspicion of people smuggling 29 Syrians on an overcrowded boat intercepted off the island’s southeast coast.

The Famagusta District Court on Sunday issued a five-day remand order against the suspect to facilitate a police investigation into assisting irregular migrants entering the country illegally in an unsafe vessel.

A police spokesperson said a wooden boat was intercepted on Saturday off Cape Greco near the southern resort of Ayia Napa with 29 people on board of Syrian origin, including six children.

Early Sunday, the boat was escorted safely to a fishing shelter in nearby Paralimni, and the migrants were transferred to a reception centre in the capital Nicosia.

The 44-year-old was also on the boat and suspected of being the trafficker and arrested.

Police said the boat was spotted by radar sailing 20 nautical miles off Cape Greco.

The arrest follows another two men detained in custody on suspicion of smuggling another 26 Syrians aboard an inflatable dinghy on the island’s northeastern coast.

Nicosia says it has the highest number of asylum applications per capita in the European Union – with asylum seekers making up 5% of the population.

It has lobbied Brussels to take action over the “disproportionate” numbers of asylum seekers it receives.

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