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UN refugee agency says death of Syrian who drowned off Cyprus ‘heartbreaking’

Άφιξη Μεταναστών Άγιος Γεώργιος Πέγεια
Arrival of refugees at Ayios Georgios in Peyia

The Unhcr on Friday expressed sadness by the news of the death of a young Syrian man off Paphos’ northwest coast on Thursday while attempting to reach Cyprus.

The man was reportedly on one of two boats, carrying over 40 Syrians including women and children who sailed from Turkey.

“It is heartbreaking that, out of despair and in the absence of safe pathways, refugees have to resort to smugglers and traffickers and entrust their lives to them. More robust action is needed to curb people smuggling and stop those who exploit human misery and despair and to protect the victims,” said Katja Saha, Unhcr Representative in Cyprus.

According to reports, other passengers who had fallen into the sea were transferred to hospital for medical care.

“The conditions of the tragic loss of life as well as the circumstances of the incident have not been fully determined yet. Unhcr is following up with the authorities and the survivors who have been transferred to Pournara,” the UN body said in a statement.

This is the first confirmed death at sea in Cyprus since the beginning of 2020, in addition to one person who went missing at sea in August 2021 after jumping off the boat when it was intercepted by the coastal authorities.

According to a Unhcr report published in April 2022, more than 3,000 people died or went missing while attempting to cross the Central and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic last year to Europe.

“States must take steps to reduce loss of life at sea, as well as exploitation, abuse and violence experienced by people travelling irregularly by sea, to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access for the delivery of essential services to people on the move or stranded en route, intercepted at sea, or held in detention centres; and to determine whether they have international protection needs,” the Unhcr said.

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