Police on Monday announced the reinstatement of the 12 police officers suspended in connection with the unauthorised departure of a boat with 61 migrants that was being held at the Kato Paphos harbour earlier this month.

A police spokesman told the Cyprus News Agency that the officers were reinstated on the orders of police chief Stylianos Papatheodorou, who had ordered the initial probe into the incident, drawing protests from independent public employee union ASDYK’s police division.

The decision was taken pending investigations into the departure without permission of a boat with 11 women, 22 men and 28 children aged between two and 16, reportedly Syrian and Lebanese nationals.

The group arrived, saying they started their journey from Tripoli, Lebanon, and their destination was Italy but they ended up in Cyprus due to the bad weather.

Authorities said they were asked if they wanted to file for asylum protection, but the group said they wanted to reach Italy.

The boat was escorted by coast guard board until it exited Cyprus’ territorial waters.

Police said two separate reports into the incident indicated that there were grounds for a disciplinary investigation against the dozen members of the police.

In a statement, the Cyprus Police Union assured the 12 officers that it would remain by their side alongside their legal advisors, “until the end, when they will be vindicated”.