At least 30 people drowned when a boat carrying about 150 migrants sank off the coast of northern Cyprus on Wednesday. Around 20 are still missing.
More than 100 people were rescued in a joint operation by Turkish Cypriot and Turkish coastguards after the boat sank near the village of Gialousa some 30 km off the north Cyprus coast. According to local security forces, rescuers were searching for 25 others.
One of the survivors was taken to Cyprus by helicopter in grave medical condition, the others were taken by boat to the port of Tasucu in Turkey’s southern province Mersin. They arrived Wednesday evening, Turkey’s news agency Anadolu said, and were taken in ambulances for medical treatment.
The bodies of the dead were also taken to Tasucu for autopsies, according to AFP. One woman who drowned was pregnant.
According to Turkish media, the migrants reportedly were Syrian nationals.
Island on the verge of the EU
At the height of the refugee crisis, Turkey became one of the main points of departure for more than a million refugees and migrants embarking on dangerous sea crossings to the European Union, usually heading for Greece. The signing of the EU-Turkey deal in 2016 reduced the flow of refugees in the bloc significantly.
The island of Cyprus, just 160 km off the coast of Syria, has not seen an influx of migrants as experienced by Turkey, Greece or Italy. According to IOM figures, only 47 migrants have filed for asylum in the Republic of Cyprus in 2018.
However, smugglers often take migrants from the Middle East to southern Turkey and then onto northern Cyprus which is controlled by Turkey. Migrants then try to cross into the Greek-Cypriot southern part of the island, the Republic of Cyprus, to enter the European Union.