Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Sunday that authorities had stepped up marine patrols after receiving a tip-off that people smugglers were planning to drop 400 migrants off the coast.
He said that having evaluated tips on the likelihood of organised people smuggling to Cyprus, police were patrolling the shoreline off Kato Pyrgos village, in the Tylliria area on the island`s northwestern coast.
In the same area during the past two weeks, two incidents occurred involving Syrian immigrants who arrived from Turkey seeking asylum.
Nicolaou revealed that the police had been tipped that there were approximately 400 people the smugglers were planning to transport to Cyprus using the same route.
Thirty immigrants of Syrian origin in total had arrived from Mersin, Turkey in the first two weeks of August on two separate occasions, Nicolaou said. “A port police boat is regularly patrolling the entire maritime region which is likely to be used for the transport of immigrants,” he said. “It seems that the measures taken are acting as a deterrent so far,” he added.
Nicolaou said the the police presence aimed on the one hand to ensure the safety of immigrants and on the other hand to arrest and prosecute those who take advantage of the predicament refugees find themselves in and demand handsome payment in order to transport them, effectively acting as human traffickers.
“We believe that there is an organised plan in place and that is why we have taken these strict security measures as well as others so that we can become aware immediately of any boats transporting immigrants,” he added.
Asked whether the measures would become permanent, he said this was something the police would evaluate but did not dismiss the possibility of setting up a permanent police port presence in the Pyrgos area.