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Twelve police officers suspended after migrant boat left unnoticed

ΠΑΦΟΣ ΑΦΙΞΗ ΠΑΡΑΤΥΠΩΝ ΜΕΤΑΝΑΣΤΩΝ
The boat when it docked originally

Twelve police officers were suspended pending investigations into the departure without permission on Thursday evening of a boat with 61 migrants that was being held at the Kato Paphos harbour, reports said on Friday.

Police chief gave orders for a probe into the incident and the suspension of 12 officers serving at the marine police and the Paphos district headquarters.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris, however, said Cyprus had no responsibility since they wanted to leave.

The vessel with 61 irregular migrants which was intercepted on Wednesday, departed Kato Paphos port late on Thursday without a departure permit. The group, Syrian and Lebanese nationals, that had set sail from Tripoli, Lebanon, said their destination was Italy and that they ended up in Cyprus due to the bad weather.

Asked by the Cyprus News Agency whether there will be a problem with Rome after the migrants left the Paphos port to reach Italy, Nouris said there would be none.

“These people stated when a rescue operation was carried out and they were transferred to Paphos that their final destination was Italy and the Republic of Cyprus could not have any responsibility in this matter on their choice,” Nouris said.

According to the minister, after their details were recorded and were asked if they wanted to file for asylum protection, they said they wanted to reach Italy.

A spokesman for Paphos police said that after the vessel departed, apparently unnoticed, marine police located the boat out at sea and intercepted it around 8.30pm, not far out from the port of Kato Paphos.

Reports said that the police chief ordered a probe into how the vessel was able to leave the port unnoticed that would have required those on board to cut the ropes and start the engine.

After locating the vessel on Thursday evening, an attempt was made to persuade the migrants to return, but police said they insisted on their plan to go to Italy. Coast guard boats accompanied them until they exited Cyprus’ territorial waters.

The same spokesman said that after running their names into the system upon their arrival, it did not seem they were wanted for any offence elsewhere. Police also argued the migrants were not under arrest.

The group had said upon arrival there was no smuggler among them and that they had purchased the boat and were navigating it themselves.

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