17 more migrants arrive from Syria

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Cypriot authorities intercepted a boat carrying 17 Syrian migrants off the island’s southern coast at Cape Greco, Ayia Napa and brought it safely to shore.

Police said that members of the coastguard were alerted on Thursday at 1.40 am after their radar spotted the presence of a small boat carrying a number of refugees just off Cape Greco.

After police intercepted the boat, it picked up 13 men, two women and two children and brought them safely to the Golden Coast fishing shelter in Paralimni.

Migrants told officers their fibreglass six-metre boat had started its journey from Tartus, Syria – each person paying between $3,000 and $3,500  for the 170km journey.

Police said the migrants were in good health, and 15 were transferred to the Pournara migrant reception centre on the outskirts of the capital Nicosia.

Two men, 35 and 48, were arrested on suspicion of people smuggling and scheduled to appear in a Famagusta court on Friday. The two men were reportedly piloting the small boat.

They were arrested on charges of illegal entry into the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, assisting the illegal entry of persons from a third country into the Republic with intent and for the purpose of obtaining profit.

The incident underscores an upward trend in arrivals of irregular migrants from Syria via the sea.

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.