By Kyriacos Kyriacou – Nicosia
345 refugees from Syria, among them 52 children, stranded aboard a small boat off Cyprus, have been rescued by a Cypriot cruise ship on Thursday.
Earlier their boat had issued a distress signal. The cruise ship “Salamis Filoxenia” arrived at Limassol port in the evening.
The debarkation of the cruise ship’s passengers was completed by 22:30, reliable sources said to IBAN. However, the 345 refugees were still on the ship negotiating with Ministry of Interior’s officials, supported by translators.
The captain disappeared
Policemen were also at the scene to provide any help necessary. Sources said that the captain and four crew members of the boat should be arrested, but according to witnesses they abandoned the boat, before the cruise ship arrived for the rescue.
Minister of Justice and Public Order, Ionas Nicolaou and Minister of Defence, Christoforos Fokaides participated in a broad meeting with the participation of representatives from the Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of the Interior, the health services of the Republic, the police, the Port Authority, the Civil Defence and other services dealing with search and rescue matters.
The Minister of Justice told reporters after the meeting that based on international conventions, Cyprus has the obligation to save the people, adding that Cyprus is in close contact with international organisations like the UN, to address the issue.
Minister of Defence said this was the first incident of such a large scale, Cyprus had to deal with.
Meanwhile, earlier, Limassol port master Giorgos Pouros said the immigrants were in good health, adding that all competent services are ready to assist them.
“Everyone is safe”
Limassol General Hospital Director Chrysostomos Andronikou said that doctors and nurses will be at Limassol port tonight to examine the immigrants and those who need medical treatment will be taken to hospital.
“It was a quite a difficult operation,” said Kikis Vasiliou, director of Salamis Cruises, the owner of the cruise ship. “All the passengers are safe.”