Cypriot Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou has said that, having evaluated tips on the likelihood of organised trafficking to Cyprus of hundreds of immigrants, a port police boat patrols the shoreline of the Kato Pyrgos village, in the region of Tilliria, on the island`s northwest coast.
In the same region, in the past two weeks, two incidents involving Syrian immigrants occurred, who arrived from Turkey seeking asylum.
Nicolaou was replying to journalists` questions on the matter after a memorial service for victims killed in the worst air disaster in the history of Cypriot and Greek aviation.
On August 14, 2005, an Helios Boeing 737 aircraft flying from Larnaca to Prague via Athens crashed into the mountain side of Grammatiko, north of the Greek capital. All passengers and crew on board were killed. Most of the victims were Cypriots.
Asked about policing the area of Kato Pyrgos Tιllirias where 30 immigrants of Syrian origin in total arrived from Mersin, Turkey in the first two weeks of August on two separate occasions, he said that a “port police boat regularly patrols the entire maritime region which is likely to be used for the transport of immigrants.”
“It seems that the measures taken are acting as a deterrent so far,” he added.
At the same time the Cypriot minister explained that police presence aims on the one hand to ensure the safety of immigrants and on the other hand to arrest and prosecute those who take advantage of the predicament refugees find themselves in and demand handsome payment in order to transport them, effectively acting as human traffickers.
Nicolaou revealed that the police have been tipped that there are approximately 400 people the traffickers are planning to transport to Cyprus using the same route.
“We believe that there is an organised plan in place and that is why we have taken these strict security measures as well as others so that we can become aware immediately of any boats transporting immigrants,” he added.
Asked whether the measures will become permanent, he said this is something the police will evaluate and did not dismiss the possibility of setting up a permanent police port presence in the Pyrgos area.