60 migrants rescued off Cyprus

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Cypriot authorities rescued 60 migrants after receiving information their boat was in distress 15 nautical miles off the eastern Mediterranean island’s southern coast at Cape Greco, Ayia Napa, officials said.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) said the migrant rescue operation was completed successfully on Tuesday, with 54 men, three women, and three children brought safely to shore.

Two marine police patrol boats, two speed boats, a helicopter, and a volunteer rescue vessel were involved in the rescue operation, said the JRCC in a statement.

“Around 8:00 pm on Monday, August 14, the Centre received information about a boat with migrants in danger, which was sailing 15 nautical miles east of Cape Greco,” the statement said.

There were no details of the nationality of the migrants or from where the boat set sail; police would only confirm the rescue took place.

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.

European Union member 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.

Asylum applications between May and July were down 53% from last year, decreasing to 4,976 claims, while Nicosia has ramped up migrant returns.

Returns of failed asylum seekers this year exceeded 4,370, significantly higher than in 2022 when they were 2,353, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said last month.