Two men have been detained after two boats carrying 305 Syrian refugees arrived on the Mediterranean Island. The Turkish coastguard says it stopped 313 migrants this weekend trying to reach Balkan countries.
Cypriot authorities brought ashore more than 300 Syrian refugees early on Sunday after spotting two crowded boats in open water off the island’s northwest coast.
Police spokesman Michalis Ioannou said the 202 men, 30 women and 73 children had left Mersin in Turkey on Saturday.
As one of the vehicles was taking in water, the boats were towed into harbor, police said.
A 36-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of piloting one of the boats. He was expected to appear before a court in the Cypriot resort town of Paphos on Sunday.
Another 29-year-old man was also taken into custody on suspicion of migrant trafficking.
Officials said the migrants were in good health and would be transported to a reception center outside the capital Nicosia. They reported paying up to $2,000 (1,660 euros) each to the smugglers for the trip.
Authorities said the rescue was one of the largest group landings of migrants to the island, which despite being the closest European Union member state to Syria, has largely been spared the massive numbers that have overwhelmed other EU countries over the past two years.
Since September 2014 more than a dozen migrant boats have reached the island, bringing in nearly 1,500 migrants, including the latest arrivals.
Meanwhile, Turkish authorities say they stopped 313 migrants on the Black Sea attempting to reach Balkan countries in the last two days.
One fishing boat, discovered off the northern coast of Istanbul on Sunday, was carrying 93 Syrians and an Afghan along with a suspected Turkish smuggler.
The coast guard also intercepted 68 Syrians and two Iranians in a sailboat with one alleged Turkish smuggler, a few miles east of Bulgaria on Saturday.
Late Friday, an official vessel stopped 149 Syrians and two Ukrainians thought to be smugglers in a fishing boat emitting a distress signal just off the Romanian coast.