Marine authorities in Cyprus have escorted 36 Syrians ashore, bringing the number of migrants arriving by boat to more than 130 in just three days. The Cypriot interior minister has warned that the rate of arrivals has pushed the small EU member state to its limits.
A boat was detected on Monday off the southeast coast of Cyprus and escorted by police to a small harbor in the resort of Protaras, AFP reports. On board were 11 men, 11 women and 14 children from Syria. It was not clear where they had sailed from.
The migrants received food and health checks and were expected to be taken to a reception center outside the capital, Nicosia.
Seven boats carrying more than 130 migrants in total have reached the shores of Cyprus since Saturday, causing alarm within the island's government. Ministers were to hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss the crisis.
Over the weekend Constantinos Petrides, the interior minister, said: "As an EU member state, Cyprus respects its obligations, but on the other hand Cyprus has reached its limits with regard to the number of migrants it can absorb," according to the Cyprus News Agency.
Asylum claims up 40 percent
Petrides also said Monday that Cyprus was on the "front line" of applications for asylum, receiving more than Greece, AFP reports.
European Commission data show that in the first quarter of 2018, Cyprus had the highest rate of first-time asylum applications per capita.
The island of Cyprus is 160 kilometers from Syria's Mediterranean coast. It currently hosts about 10,000 migrants, mostly Syrian nationals. Around 4,000 asylum applications are due for assessment, with a 40 percent increase in claims in the first five months of this year, according to AFP.