Two boats carrying 180 migrants have come ashore at a British military base in Cyprus.
It is the first time that refugees have landed directly on what is considered British sovereign soil. little is currently known about their journey to the base or their country of origin.
RAF Akrotiri is used to launch British air strikes against Islamic State fighters in Iraq. Akrotiri has also played a crucial role during Britain’s other recent operations in the Middle East. During both major campaigns against Iraq in 1991 and 2003 and also during the no-fly zone operations between, it operated as a staging post for British forces en route to the region.
Due to the station’s relative proximity to the Middle East, it is often used by British allies when needed, such as for casualty reception for Americans after the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing and as a staging post before heading into theatres of combat in the Middle East/Persian Gulf theatres.
Akrotiri is also the winter training grounds of the RAF display team, the Red Arrows.
A Sky News source on the island said the vessels were apparently able to reach the shoreline unchallenged .
“As we reflect on the landing of these refugees, we must also reflect on how the UK has allowed three to four boats, with up to 180 people, to land undetected and unchallenged within the perimeter of it primary military base from which it launches operations in Syria? What if the landing had been of a smaller scale and by members of IS, seeking to attack?”
There has been extensive coverage this morning of a number of boats containing migrants landing on the shore of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.
An MoD spokesperson said:
“We can confirm that a number of boats with migrants on board have landed on the shore of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus. At the moment our key priority is ensuring everybody on board is safe and well and when we can release further details we will.
We have had an agreement in place with the Republic of Cyprus since 2003 to ensure that the Cypriot authorities take responsibility in circumstances like this.
Events like this underline why it is important for us to develop a comprehensive approach to the migration crisis working with our international partners to provide humanitarian assistance in Syria and neighbouring countries; to disrupt the trafficking gangs and to address the root causes of instability that cause people to seek a new life elsewhere.”
The MoD says Cypriot authorities will take responsibility for the migrants on the vessels that landed at RAF Akrotiri.