264 Syrian migrants arrive in 48 hours

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More than 250 Syrian migrants arrived in Cyprus onboard three boats over the weekend, causing heightened concern amongst authorities over a possible influx as police bust another people smuggling ring.

Some 264 Syrian migrants arrived from Lebanon, while concurrent efforts to execute 17 arrests and search warrants resulted in 10 arrests and the recovery of €160,000 found in a house.

Monday’s operation involved 130 police officers from the Paphos CID and the drug squad, concentrating mainly in Paphos.

According to police, those arrested are residents and have allegedly participated in a criminal organisation that deals with the illegal trafficking of immigrants.

Charges involve offences from June 2019 until today in the Republic of Cyprus, including conspiracy to commit a crime, participation in a criminal organisation, and trafficking in adults.

According to the Interior Ministry, 40 people arrived on Saturday on a boat, with an additional 224 on Sunday, on two boats with 142 and 82 migrants, respectively.

Local media said the government is on high alert as intelligence suggests a substantial number of migrants are planning to arrive in Cyprus in the coming days.

Nicosia is also concerned that escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict may increase migrant flows, putting pressure on local and Lebanese authorities to maintain effective coordinated checks.

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou has ordered all relevant agencies to be ready, although migrant reception centres are full to capacity.