The marine police rescued 455 migrants in 13 different incidents in 2019, its head Theocharis Christodoulou said on Thursday.

“The marine police are a specialised service and our primary goal and purpose is to rescue people at sea,” he said at a news conference. The service used state-of-the-art equipment, which helped it deal with the growing number of migrants seeking help.

He stressed the importance of rescuing people on time. “We locate them on the boats and they are safely taken ashore.”

In addition, Christodoulou explained, the marine police, in close cooperation with the search and rescue centre, responded to 50 calls for help from people needing assistance at sea last year.

Illegal fishing by Egyptian fishermen was also addressed in the last year with Cyprus authorities spurred into action after being criticized by the EU for neglecting to monitor their zone of responsibility.

In this context, Christodoulou mentioned two operations were carried out. Two Egyptian boats were identified, and in cooperation with the Department of Fisheries, the marine police led them to the nearest port, where they were fined, and equipment confiscated.

Marine police were now supported by advanced technology.

“Targets are detected and identified electronically, and we give directions to our vessels about where they are, something which greatly facilitates our work because we save resources and time, meaning when we start out, we are sure what we are looking for and where we need to look.”

The department currently has 21 vessels, and three more will soon be ordered, Christodoulou said.

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