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Cyprus police intercept migrant boat with 36 Syrian refugees

The Cypriot government has raised the alarm over the number of migrants reaching it shores recently
File photo of Syrian refugees at Kokkinotrimithia camp, 20km outside Nicosia, February 2017 (AFP)

Cypriot marine police said they escorted 36 Syrian migrants ashore on Monday, at a time authorities have raised concerns about an influx of people arriving by boat to the island.

The group's vessel was detected off the southeast coast of Cyprus before a police patrol boat intercepted and brought them to a small harbour in the resort of Protaras.

On board the boat were 11 men, 11 women and 14 children, and they were received by emergency crews offering food and health checks, the police said.

The migrants were expected to be taken to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia.

It was not immediately clear where they had sailed from.

The Cypriot government has raised the alarm over the number of migrants reaching it shores recently, with more than 130 coming in the past three days alone in seven different instances.

"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," Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides told Cyprus News Agency on Sunday.

Petrides also told state radio on Monday that Cyprus was on the "front line" with asylum applications exceeding that of Greece.

"European solidarity should not be limited to money. It ought to address the full spectrum of the migration policy," Petrides told Kathimerini Cyprus in a recent interview.

A special ministerial meeting is to convene on Tuesday in Nicosia to discuss the latest wave of migrants landing on the island's shores.

Cyprus is hosting around 10,000 migrants while about 4,000 asylum applications are pending.

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Most of the applicants are Syrian with a 40 percent increase in claims witnessed in the first five months of the year.

Cyprus, a EU member state located 160 km from Syria's Mediterranean coast, has not seen the massive inflow of migrants experienced by Turkey and Greece.

EU data puts Cyprus fourth among the bloc's 28 nations according to the number of asylum applications per capita.

The UN refugee agency has estimated that around 2,000 migrants came to Cyprus in 40 boat trips since 2015.