The coastguard rescued a total of 455 asylum seekers in 13 different incidents last year and also responded to 50 instances of people in danger at sea.
The figures were given by the deputy head for operations of the port and maritme police, Theocharis Christodoulou during a meeting with the press at the service’s facilities at Limassol port.
“In 2019, there were 13 cases in which the coastguard found boats that were illegally carrying irregular migrants and we rescued 455 people,” he said.
“The number of people who came to shore safely is important because in other countries with similar problems, the incident evolves into a search and rescue and they are picked up from the sea,” he said.
Christodoulou said the coastguard worked quickly and professionally, to pre-empt negative developments and bring the passengers to safety.
The coastguard in cooperation with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre also responded to 50 requests to help people in danger at sea.
Moreover, he said illegal fishing by Egyptian fishermen was also addressed. “This was an issue that was of serious concern ebcause we had freqent representations from the EU that we were not properly monitoring the zone under our responsbility.”
Two targetted operations were carried out during which two Egyptian fishing boats were found, brought to the closest port in cooperation with the Fisheries Department, fined and their equipment confiscated, he said.
The coastguard has improved in terms of the available technology. Targets are spotted electronically and then instructions given for boats to set off. “When we set off we are certain about what and where we are looking.”
The coastguard currently has 21 boats with plans to add another three in the next few years.