Cyprus sends 88 Syrian migrants again to Lebanon | World information

By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus sent 88 Syrian migrants back to Lebanon on Monday after trying to reach the eastern Mediterranean island state by two boats.

Home Secretary Nicos Nouris told The Associated Press that rescue workers continue to search for one in five men who jumped overboard after police ships intercepted their boat off the east coast of Cyprus. Nouris said police took four men away, but the fifth, wearing a mask, fins and a lifebuoy, was able to swim away.

A pregnant woman and another sick man were flown to the hospital.

Coastal radar detected two ships approaching the Cypriot coast on Sunday evening. Naval police ships intercepted the boats, which together carried 48 men, 15 women and 25 minors, 15 kilometers from the coast.

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They were put on a chartered boat for the return journey to Lebanon on Monday under police escort.

Cyprus signed an agreement with Lebanon last year to take back anyone trying to reach the island by boat.

Nouris said Cyprus has the right to protect its borders from such irregular migration, despite criticism from human rights groups that the agreement violates international law because migrants are not given a chance to apply for asylum.

More than 1,337 Syrians have reached Cyprus by sea since 2019. Many more migrants come from Turkey through the unrecognized, renegade north of the ethnically divided island. According to the authorities, the number of migrants who have received or applied for protection in Cyprus now represents 4% of the population.

Cyprus has asked the European Union’s border agency Frontex to curb the influx of migrants from countries such as Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.

Cyprus is 170 kilometers (100 miles) west of Syria and 230 kilometers (140 miles) west of Lebanon.

Follow all AP global migration stories at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

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