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Cyprus arrests Syrians for people trafficking

Source: Agence France Presse – NICOSIA: Cyprus police said they arrested two Syrians Friday on suspicion of immigrant smuggling and people trafficking during sweeps in the capital Nicosia and the coastal city of Limassol.

The arrests come after authorities recently closed a camp that had temporarily housed some 345 Syrian and Palestinian refugees rescued in stormy waters off the eastern Mediterranean island in November.

However, police said nothing about possible links between the arrests and those people, who were headed for mainland Europe when their ship became distressed and most of whom still want to make their way there.

The unnamed men, aged 23 and 28, were taken before Nicosia District Court and remanded in police custody for three days.

Police said they face possible charges of circulating false documents, immigrant trafficking, people trafficking and profiting from illegal activities.

They said they had discovered forged passports and other documents, a number of mobile phones, computers, a replica gun and 7,500 euros ($8,550) in cash in the men’s possession.

The eastern Mediterranean island has become a stepping stone for Syrians seeking to escape the conflict in their country for a safer future in Europe.

The island lies just 100 kilometers (60 miles) off the Syrian coast but has not seen a major influx of refugees from the conflict.

The UN High Commission for Refugees in Cyprus estimates around 2,000 Syrians have arrived since 2011.

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