Eighty-three Syrian refugees drifting in a boat left powerless after engine failure were towed into Latsi harbour by marine police, early Friday.
Information was received Thursday that the vessel, which is believed to have come from Mersin in Turkey, was heading towards the north-western coast of the island. By 11.30pm the marine police had located it off the coast of Kato Pyrgos. It is not known yet how far out to sea they were.
The boat, which according to Paphos police spokesman Michalis Ioannou was carrying 32 men, 14 women and 37 children, 19 of them infants, was towed to Latsi and by 7.30am the occupants began disembarking.
All aboard appear to be in good health though reports say some of the children were taken to Polis Chrysochous hospital for first aid along with a pregnant woman for preventative reasons.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides told CyBC radio that there were indications that the boat had been ‘abandoned’ by its captain after engine failure and that marine police in cooperation with civil defence were on site to make sure the migrants requiring medical attention would receive it. Usually in such cases the captain or people smugglers try to pose as passengers to avoid arrest.
Some of the migrants are reported to have told police that each family paid between $3,000 and $10,000 to be transported to Cyprus. Statements are still being taken to verify their claims and to identify the traffickers and captain of the vessel and whether or not they escaped.
Community council leader of Kato Pyrgos Costas Michaelides again appealed for marine police to be stationed in the region to handle such incidents.
His plea echoed similar ones earlier this year when three boatloads of migrants arrived in late August and early September, landing on the shores of his village. He had then asked the interior ministry to strengthen the Cyprus port and marine police force saying “From Pyrgos, the naked eye can see Turkey. This is why a stronger port and marine police presence are required.”
Kato Pyrgos sits between the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus and Kokkina, an enclave to the west.
Polis Mayor Angelos Georgiou Odysseos expressed his concern on the arrival of large numbers of migrants to the shores of Cyprus.
Odysseos said Polis Municipality would always provide all possible assistance to them as it did with the last group of refugees and pledged full cooperation with the competent authorities, to give all possible assistance to the new wave of migrants.
The mayor said he thought the phenomenon would increase, especially with the troubles in Syria at the moment.