Coast guard officials in the Republic of Cyprus blocked a boat carrying over a hundred undocumented migrants from entering territorial waters, while reports in the north said Turkish Cypriot authorities rescued 175 Syrians including women and children.
According to local media, a 50-foot wooden vessel was picked up by state radars on Friday morning around 11am off the coast just south of Cape Greco. Four coast guard vessels were dispatched to the area, with reports saying officers had been given orders to deny entry citing the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, officers attempted to offer water, food, and fuel to the refugees on the condition they would depart from the area and head back to their port of origin.
Greek Cypriot officers attempted to offer water, food, and fuel to the refugees on the condition the boat would turn back but they turned down the offer
But reports said refugees turned down the offer, while two of the four state vessels remained in the area overnight to monitor the situation some 13 nautical miles east of Cape Greco according to Kathimerini.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, the wooden fishing boat started moving northbound after 11pm, with reports on Saturday saying it was spotted in at least two different locations in the north, near Vokolida/Bafra, and Koma Yialou/Kumyali.
Additional reports in the north said a total of 175 people, including 76 adult males, 30 adult women, and 69 children, were rescued Saturday morning around 3:30am. Videos on social media later showed the presumptive refugees in a local sports arena nearby, where they were given food and clothing collected by volunteers while it was understood they also underwent preliminary checks.
Greek Cypriot officials have routinely carried out medical exams on all undocumented migrants arriving on the island, including those seeking asylum. But the government of the Republic of Cyprus has been showing signs of distress over recent numbers, warning other countries that it had reached capacity.
In the meantime, both sides of the divided island have implemented partial lockdown measures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, including a ban on entry to non-resident foreign nationals and a mandatory 14-day quarantine for those eligible for admission.