(Reuters) – Four boatloads of migrants came ashore at a British military base on Cyprus on Wednesday, authorities said, the first time since the migrant crisis began that migrants have landed directly on what is considered British sovereign soil.
Vessels carrying the migrants were spotted in the early morning hours off RAF Akrotiri, a sprawling military facility on the southern coast of Cyprus used to bomb Islamic State targets in northern Iraq.
“We have not established where they are from yet,” a spokesman for the bases said.
It was unclear exactly how many migrants there were. Two vessels initially arrived carrying about 140 people, and then another two boats arrived, authorities said.
Britain started using RAF Akrotiri to bomb Islamic State targets in northern Iraq in September 2014. The base is one of two sovereign territories retained by Britain on Cyprus, a colony until 1960.
Despite its proximity to Syria, EU member Cyprus has not seen any of the massive influx of refugees seen by either Italy or Greece, where arrivals have topped 500,000 this year.
Refugees have tended to avoid the island because of its relative geographical isolation from the rest of Europe and difficulties in leaving.