Cyprus detains five Syrians suspected of human trafficking

NICOSIA (Reuters) - Police in Cyprus on Wednesday arrested five Syrian nationals suspected of being part of a crime gang involved in human trafficking, the government said.

The island, at the crossroads of three continents, has been struggling with a surge in irregular migration in recent years and arrivals by sea have risen in the past several days.

An early morning police raid in the southern district of Limassol found five Syrians and more arrests were expected, Cyprus's Presidency said in a statement. Authorities had been collecting intelligence on the suspects over several months.

"In attempting to effectively deal with the migration issue it is essential to confront trafficking rings which endanger the lives of irregular migrants attempting to enter the country," it said.

According to the U.N refugee agency UNHCR, Cyprus received 5,563 new asylum applications until the end of June 2023, compared to 21,565 for the whole of 2022.

(Reporting by Michele Kambas, Editing by Angus MacSwan)