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Cyprus military base not a back door for refugees heading to UK

David Cameron's spokesman says the British base will not serve as 'a new route of migration' to the UK

A British military base in Cyprus will not become a new route into Britain for migrants, Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman said on Friday following the arrival of more than 100 people there earlier this week.

On Wednesday, 115 migrants in fishing boats came ashore at Akrotiri base on the southern coast of the island — the first time in the migrant crisis that refugees have landed directly on British sovereign soil.

“We're not going to allow this to become some kind of new route of migration into Britain,” the spokesman said, stressing that any asylum claims would be processed by Cyprus.

RAF Akrotiri is one of two British bases on Cyprus, which was a British colony until 1960.

In Nicosia, a senior foreign ministry official said Cyprus would take in any asylum seekers. So far the number of applicants has been small but is expected to increase, the official said.

“We are jointly trying to complete the process of the initial interviews and see how these people will be accommodated in the future,” Homer Mavrommatis, head of the Foreign Ministry's crisis management center told Reuters.

“The intention of Cyprus, even though it is not an obligation, is to house the asylum seekers,” he said.

Most of the individuals said they were either Syrians or Palestinians. They were still being accommodated in an aircraft hangar at RAF Akrotiri on Friday.

A base for Tornado bombers, Akrotiri has traditionally played a supporting role for military operations in the Middle East and in recent months has been a launchpad to bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq.

Despite its proximity to Syria, Cyprus, a member of the European Union, has seen little of the influx of refugees received by Greece, where arrivals have topped 500,000 this year.

Refugees avoid the island because of its relative geographical isolation, which makes it difficult to travel on to other parts of Europe.

Asked if the migrants may have sailed to Akrotiri on purpose, Mavrommatis said:

“The information we have is that this was not their destination. The information we have is they were heading for the island of Rhodes.”

Wire services

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