More refugees to arrive in Cyprus as politicians discuss ways to curb irregular immigration

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NICOSIA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) -- A rescue operation is underway for about 100 people believed to be irregular immigrants from Syria who were spotted in a boat off the southeast coast of Cyprus, the police said on Wednesday.

A police spokesman said that a marine police patrol boat was dispatched to tow the refugee boat into the nearest fishing harbor.

The number of people on board the boat is the second largest up to now after a boat with about 150 irregular immigrants arrived on Nov. 4 off the northwestern coast of Cyprus, coming from the shores of Turkey.

The boat arrived only hours after Cypriot ministers and lawmakers held a closed door session to discuss ways to curb the arrival of irregular immigrants.

Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said after the meeting that a crisis will hatch if the issue is left unattended, and demanded solidarity by Europe in dealing with the problem.

He said that regular and irregular immigrants in Cyprus currently represent 4 percent of the population of the island, at a time when the ratio of immigrants in other European countries is less than 0.5 percent.

"We are faced with serious economic, security and health risks," he said.

Petrides added that refugee centers have long reached their capacity.

"The situation is evolving in such a way that Cyprus is not able to handle it alone. Cyprus no longer expects European solidarity but rather demands it," he added.

The minister said there were no easy solutions, but all the ministries and agencies involved in the meeting were taking steps to address the situation more effectively. Enditem

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