Migrant boat sinks off Cyprus


Nineteen people died when a boat carrying about 150 migrants sank off the coast of northern Cyprus and rescuers were searching for 25 people, Turkey’s coast guard said.

A hundred and three migrants were rescued by boats and helicopters of the Turkish and northern Cypriot coast guards, helped by commercial boats in the area, from the sunken boat 30 km off the coast.

One rescued person was in critical condition and was taken to land by helicopter, the coast guard said.

Burhanettin Kocamaz, mayor of Turkish province of Mersin, told broadcaster Haberturk the rescued migrants and the bodies of those who died were being brought to Mersin.

Kocamaz said there was no information about the origins of the migrants, adding authorities did not yet know where the migrant boat came from.

Television footage of the arrival showed ambulances at Mersin’s Tasucu harbour, from where the migrants were taken to Silifke district for treatment.

The coast guard said a Panama-flagged commercial ship spotted the migrant boat some 25 nautical miles from Antalya and alerted the coast guard.

In 2015, Turkey became one of the main launch points for more than a million migrants taking the sea route to the European Union, many fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

A 2016 deal between Turkey and the European Union reduced the flow of refugees into the bloc, after thousands died crossing from Turkey to offshore Greek islands.

From January to May this year at least 26 migrants died trying to cross to Europe from Turkey, according to coast guard statistics.

Mediterranean arrivals to the bloc, including refugees making the longer and more perilous crossing from North Africa to Italy, stood at 172,301 in 2017, down from 362,753 in 2016 and 1,015,078 in 2015, according to UN data