- One of the five children rescued from a boat carrying 60 Syrian migrants in Cyprus has died.
- The deceased child suffered a heart attack and could not be revived, while two other children remain in intensive care.
- Two adults were also hospitalized, and the rest of the migrants were transferred to a reception center.
One of the five children who were hospitalized in Cyprus after being rescued from a rickety boat carrying 60 Syrian migrants has died, officials said Thursday.
The migrants, who were rescued early Wednesday by Cyprus police, apparently ran out of food and water after the boat had engine trouble during a six-day voyage from Lebanon, officials said.
The child suffered a heart attack and couldn’t be revived, Health Services spokesperson Charalambos Charilaou told the Cypriot state broadcaster.
Charilaou said two other children, aged 3 and 5, remain in intensive care at a hospital in the Cypriot capital. Two other minors are also being treated at a hospital, but their condition isn’t as serious.
Two adults were also hospitalized, with leg fractures. The remaining Syrians were transferred to a migrant reception center on the capital’s outskirts.
Cyprus government spokesman Constantinos Letymbiotis expressed the country’s collective shock at the little girl’s death and wished for the speedy recovery of the other two girls in intensive care.
“There’s a very dark aspect to the migration issue, horrible criminal people smuggling rings that take advantage of your fellow human beings,” Letymbiotis said.
A Cyprus court on Thursday ordered a 47-year-old man into custody for eight days on suspicion of driving the boat and belonging to the smuggling ring that organized the trip. He also faces a manslaughter charge in connection with the girl’s death.
The boat had departed Lebanon with insufficient fuel and lacking GPS or any other navigational aid, not even a compass, police said according to the state broadcaster.
Alerted by a passing ship, police found the migrants about 55 kilometers (35 miles) off the island nation’s southeastern tip.
Authorities said the boat left from Lebanon on Jan. 18. Lebanon’s coast is about 105 miles from Cyprus.
Mohammed Sablouh, a Lebanese lawyer who follows migrant issues in his country, said the migrants were in bad shape because they hadn’t eaten for days.
Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides urged Lebanon’s government on Wednesday to take action to curb departures of migrants “because we know that these are Syrians who come here from Lebanon.”
Although overall migrant arrivals in Cyprus have significantly declined, those coming by sea almost quadrupled from 937 in 2022 to 3,889 in 2023, with almost all being Syrian, according to official interior ministry numbers.
Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said Thursday he would again call on the European Union to re-evaluate the safety of certain parts of Syria so that the migrants can be repatriated. He would also urge the EU to form a unit composed of European police, Lebanese and Cypriot officials to patrol Lebanon’s border.