Authorities have announced that several of those on board have been hospitalised.
At least four people have been hospitalised after Cypriot police rescued 60 Syrian migrants found aboard a rickety wooden boat some 55 kilometres off the island nation’s southeastern tip, authorities said on Wednesday.
They had been at sea for six days.
Police and army helicopters flew three children and one adult to a hospital after a passing merchant ship notified Cypriot authorities of the boat’s presence off the island’s coast in pre-dawn hours.
Three of the children and one adult seemed to have lost consciousness. Three other adults who had sustained fractures to their lower extremities were treated by officers aboard a patrol vessel that intercepted the migrant boat, police said.
The boat was towed to the harbour where the remaining migrants received medical care.
Authorities said the boat had set sail from Lebanon on 18 January – and the migrants appeared to have run short of food and water.
A Lebanese lawyer who follows migrant issues in his country said the boat had gone missing since its departure until it reached Cyprus. He said the migrants were in bad shape because they hadn’t eaten for days.
Lebanon’s coastline is about 168 kilometres from Cyprus.
Although overall migrant arrivals to Cyprus have gone down significantly, arrivals by sea almost quadrupled from 937 in 2022 to 3,889 in 2023, with almost all migrants being Syrian, according to official interior ministry numbers.
In a written statement, Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Wednesday the boat’s arrival was “unfortunate proof” of how people-smuggling rings were endangering lives by forcing migrants to make the journey aboard unsuitable craft.
Ioannou said it’s for this reason that he had told European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson during her recent visit to Cyprus about the urgent need for the EU to put together a unit composed of Europol members, Lebanese officials and Cypriot police tasked with patrolling Lebanon’s borders.
He added he would again suggest that the bloc re-evaluate the safety of certain areas inside Syria to enable the repatriation of Syrian migrants when he meets fellow EU interior ministers in Brussels on Thursday.