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Suspected people smuggler arrested after migrant arrival (Updated)

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A 30-year-old man suspected of people smuggling was arrested after a boat with irregular migrants arrived in Paralimni in the early hours of Sunday, police said.

The boat was spotted off Konnos beach in Protaras and was escorted by a marine police vessel to the Paralimni fishing shelter. Eleven men were on board, police said, but did not provide information on their nationality.

One of them was arrested on the suspicion of people smuggling. The rest were taken to the Pournara centre for irregular migrants in Kokkinotrimithia.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, said later in the day that in October alone, more than 1,500 irregular migrants mainly from sub-Saharan Africa but also Syria arrived at the Republic so far, all of them through the buffer zone.

In statements at Troulloi village in Larnaca where he addressed the annual memorial of those killed during the 1955-59 Eoka struggle and the 1974 invasion, Nouris said despite the measures taken along the buffer zone to curb migrant flows, the government is now on a cat-and-mouse game with the people smugglers with authorities guarding an area and them passing through another.

He added that the government was concerned because the nature of migration flows has changed completely, as those arriving are mainly from sub-Saharan Africa. Cyprus, he said, cannot continue welcoming such massive numbers of economic migrants.

“We will close these points, we will make sure to take all those measures, similar to the ones taken at the external borders of Europe, such as in Lithuania and Poland, for which there is a strong awareness by the EU,” Nouris said. He expressed hope that the same sensitivity by the EU would be exhibited in the case of Cyprus as well.  Nouris referred to last summer’s Home Affairs Council decisions, which acknowledged the need to safeguard the buffer zone, despite the fact that it does not constitute an external border.

He said Nicosia demands from the EU the activation of the return mechanisms, and that the European Commission signs bilateral agreements with third countries.

The minister said Cyprus was facing a new provocation, orchestrated by Turkey: “the illegal smuggling to the areas controlled by the Republic of thousands of irregular migrants whose arrival is courtesy of the Erdogan regime.”

Nouris said the state was ready to help those truly in need but that the country was also determined to protect itself at any cost.

The minister also called on Turkish Cypriots who want a solution to the Cyprus problem “to react to the alteration of the population sought by Turkey.”

“How will we solve the Cyprus problem when we daily add new entries to the civil registry of the Republic while the asylum seekers, together with those who have already been granted international protection status, have reached four per cent of the population of our semi-occupied homeland?” he asked.

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