Three people were arrested on Monday afternoon after a boat carrying a total of 50 irregular migrants was spotted in the early hours of the morning by coast guards in the Famagusta district, according to a police statement.
The three arrested, two aged 21 and one aged 25, will have to respond to accusations of assisting the illegal entry of third-country nationals into the Republic. They are now in custody and are set to appear in front of the Larnaca district court on Tuesday.
“Around 4.50am, officers spotted a boat carrying passengers approximately three nautical miles off the shores of the Famagusta district,” the statement said.
“A port police patrol was immediately dispatched and it was determined that the boat carried 50 individuals, of which 26 were men, seven women and 17 minors.”
The migrants were then safely transported to the Golden Coast fishing shelter in Paralimni, where authorities initiated their registration process.
After their registration, the migrants will be transferred to the Pournara reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia.
Earlier on Monday, the director of the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) Andreas Charalambides said that 14 incidents involving boats transporting irregular migrants have been recorded in Cyprus since May.
Speaking to CyBC, Charalambides added that over 400 migrants had arrived on the island in this way in the past two months.
He said that the latest string of incidents confirms a trend that has been growing for the past years.
“The number of migrants making their way to Cyprus via the sea has steadily increased and it has been for a while,” he said.
“The risk of losing lives in the near future is real and we need to be working in order not to have incidents similar to the one that took place in Pylos, Greece, recently.”
Charalamides was referring to the incident that took place on June 14, when a fishing boat smuggling migrants sank in international waters in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Pylos in Messenia.
The search and rescue effort by Greek authorities recovered 82 bodies, with hundreds more missing and presumed dead.
“Cyprus has not yet seen such incidents, but the numbers of migrants arriving here via boat is increasing every month,” Charalambides said.
He added that, considering the poor condition of the boats transporting migrants to Cyprus, the risk of losing lives off the country’s shores is concrete.
At the same time, however, Charalambides said that the number of migrants arriving in Cyprus via the sea is considerably lower in comparison to other ways.
“At the moment, illegal migrants mainly arrive in the country through the buffer zone after first making their way to the north,” he said.
The director of the JRCC said that coast guards regularly patrol the sea and, in most cases, they intercept boats smuggling people before they reach the shore.
He added that patrolling the entire buffer zone is considerably more difficult and that migrants find ways to illegally enter the country more easily on land.