Close to a hundred Syrian refugees were spotted on board a vessel on Wednesday off Cyprus’ Cape Greco, with reports saying half of them were women and children while coast guard officials ordered the men to remain on the boat.
According to local media, a boat carrying over 90 presumptive refugees from Syria was spotted in Cypriot waters Wednesday early afternoon, around 2pm, some 14 nautical miles southeast of Cape Greco.
Reports said a coast guard vessel with immigration officials on board approached the boat around 5pm, some 5 miles off the coast, allowing a pregnant woman and her infant child, along with another young boy and his mother, to be taken to Famagusta General Hospital for treatment after exhibiting signs of health issues.
By 11pm, a total of 13 women and 31 children ended up taking refuge at a fishing pier at the Golden Coast, with reports saying two women and six young children had been taken to Famagusta General for treatment before all of them being given blankets, clothing, food and water at the pier.
European officials have criticized Nicosia over its pushback policies, while the Cypriot interior minister has accused Brussels of failing to form a comprehensive immigration system within the bloc
Local media reported that about 50 adult males were left behind on the boat overnight, with reports saying the men told officials that the boat sailed out of Tartus in Syria.
Days earlier another vessel carrying dozens of refugees of undisclosed nationality was escorted to Lebanon, contradicting initial reports that the boat had been escorted to Cape Greco.
Cypriot officials said they had determined that the vessel carrying 39 adult males, 7 adult females, and 10 children, had departed from the Lebanese coastal town of Tripoli.
Last summer, Nicosia sent a team to Beirut to help authorities stop refugees in the neighboring country from fleeing towards the island, after Cyprus said it was not prepared to host more refugees.
European officials have criticized the Republic of Cyprus for its pushback policies, while Nicosia points to lawful actions citing an international agreement with Lebanon.
Cypriot Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, who has taken a tough stance on migration, has accused Brussels of failing to form a comprehensive immigration system within the bloc, further pointing the finger at Turkey and accusing Ankara of pushing economic migrants onto the island.