45 Syrian migrants in two boats rescued

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Cypriot authorities rescued 45 Syrian migrants in two boats after receiving information they were in distress 60 nautical miles off the island’s southern coast at Cape Greco, Ayia Napa, officials said Friday.

The Search and Rescue Coordination Centre said the migrant rescue operation was completed successfully on Thursday evening, with 29 men, five women and 11 children brought safely to shore.

Police said they were in good health and transferred to a migrant reception centre on the outskirts of the capital Nicosia.

A patrol boat, two helicopters and a commercial ship were involved in the rescue operation.

There were 18 irregular migrants on a wooden boat and 27 on a 6.5-metre inflatable craft who were picked up by the commercial ship and then received by marine police.

Two people, aged 20 and 18, were arrested on suspicion of navigating the two boats and are scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Police said the boats had set off from war-torn Syria before they were detected off Cyprus.

The incident comes after a boat carrying 37 Syrian migrants was intercepted off Cape Greco and escorted to shore Wednesday.

Authorities say there has been a rise in migrants arriving by boat, with a 60% increase recorded in the first five months compared to last year.

According to the Aliens and Immigration Unit, most irregular migrants arriving by sea come on boats from Tartus, Syria and are usually located off Cape Greco.

Data from the authority, provided to Phileleftheros daily, reveal that since the start of the year, 396 migrants arrived by boats from Syria, including 41 women and 89 children on 19 boats (nine in May alone).

In the same period last year, 246 migrants from Syria arrived on 14 boats.

Cyprus argues it is a ‘frontline country’ on the Mediterranean migrant route, with asylum-seekers comprising an EU high of 5% of the island’s 915,000 population in the Republic – a record figure across the bloc.