A 35-year-old Palestinian was remanded by the Nicosia court on Thursday for six days in connection with a case of allegedly smuggling people to the government controlled areas through the north.
The suspect who lives in Nicosia, is himself an asylum seeker whose residence permit expired in October police spokesman Andreas Angelides said. The 35-year-old was arrested on Wednesday night near Akaki, when police discovered four Somalis, three of them minors, in the vehicle he was driving. It is believed they crossed to the government controlled areas through the buffer zone.
Officers, acting on a tip-off had signaled the Palestinian’s car, which was seen coming from the buffer zone, Angelides said, but the driver increased speed instead and tried to get away but ultimately crashing.
Angelides said there were four other people in the car aged 16, 17, 18, and 31 – two males and two females – without any travel documents. They told police they were Somalis.
The 35-year-old was arrested while the three minors were placed under the protection of welfare. The 31-year-old male Somali, was offered accommodation by the asylum service, Angelides said.
He said the suspect had been reported to the police for being involved in similar cases in the past. He claimed he went to the specific area following instructions from another person, to pick up the four Somalis from the north. He faces the charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, people smuggling, and offences relevant with the law on preventing and combating money laundering.
“One of the Somalis said during questioning he had paid US $12,000 in Somalia in order for him to travel to Norway where his family is,” Angelides said.
He added that the four migrants would be questioned again for more information as to their route to Cyprus.
“What is being evaluated is whether there is a (smugglers’) ring involved, if that is, there is involvement and assistance of other persons,” he said.