Europe

Cyprus police end migrant stand-off aboard cruise ship

  • 26 September 2014
  • From the section Europe
Media captionRefugees have disembarked the cruise ship following a stand-off

Police in Cyprus have persuaded nearly 300 migrants, thought to be Syrian refugees, to disembark from the cruise ship that had rescued them.

Police negotiators coaxed the migrants off the ship in the early hours of Friday, an official said, ending a stand-off that began on Thursday.

The migrants were rescued at sea by cruise ship Salamis Filoxenia.

Although 65 left the ship when it docked at Limassol, the rest reportedly insisted on being taken to Italy.

The Cypriot defence ministry said 52 children were on the small fishing boat that had sent a distress signal. All those rescued are said to be in good health.

Meanwhile, 300 Russian passengers who had been due to continue their cruise to Haifa, Israel, on board the Salamis Filoxenia had their journey cancelled and were put up in Limassol hotels.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The cruise ship Salamis Filoxenia is docked in Limassol, Cyprus
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Many of the migrants are believed to be from Syria
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Those who left the ship were taken to a camp near Nicosia

Salamis Cruise Lines Managing Director Kikis Vassiliou said the company's losses as a result of the rescue had run into hundreds of thousands of euros.

Aid workers said eight of those rescued had suffered some dehydration, while some others had "minor" problems.

The fishing boat was spotted in rough seas 55 nautical miles (100km) south of the town of Paphos.

"It was quite a difficult operation," Mr Vassiliou was earlier quoted as saying by the Cyprus Mail website.

Cypriot authorities said they had picked up a radio distress signal as the boat was caught in rough seas.

This year has seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats - particularly people fleeing the conflict in Syria. The majority have headed for Italy and Malta.

Libya, racked by unrest and lawlessness, has become a major people-trafficking hub. However, Cyprus lies closer to Syria.

Media captionFootage showed people being helped onto the cruise ship

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