Update as of 5:10 a.m. EDT: After refusing to disembark from a Cypriot cruise ship that had rescued them from the Meditteranean for hours, hundreds of refugees have now relented and are being taken to a camp near the capital city of Nicosia, Agence France-Presse, or AFP, reported. The situation was resolved after police entered the vessel to talk to the remaining refugees and convinced them to leave, Marinos Papadopoulos, an ministry official, told AFP.
Original story below
Nearly 300 migrants, most of them from Syria, refused to disembark from a Cypriot cruise ship that rescued them off the coast of the Mediterranean island on Thursday, insisting that they be taken to Italy, according to media reports.
On Thursday, a total of 345 migrants, mainly women and children, had been rescued from a small fishing boat caught in rough seas about 50 nautical miles off the coast of Cyprus by a cruise liner Salamis Filoxenia, according to Cypriot authorities.
The Cypriot police reportedly said that only 65 of those rescued at sea left the ship and were taken to the Kokkinotrimithia refugee camp near the capital city of Nicosia.
“We did our outmost to save their lives, to give them food, support and now they want to destroy this company,” Kikis Vassiliou, managing director of Salamis Cruise Lines, told reporters, adding that the company had suffered hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses because the migrants had refused to budge.
“There is no responsible person to negotiate and to explain the situation," he reportedly said.
The rescued refugees, many of whom are women and children fleeing the violence in Syria, have reportedly demanded that they be taken to Itlay.
There has been a drastic increase in the number of migrants, mostly from strife-torn regions in the Middle East and Northwest Africa, attempting to cross the Mediterranean in overcrowded boats. As a result, the Mediterranean has been plagued by a number of shipwrecks in recent months, involving migrants trying to reach Italy and Malta.
In one of the worst shipping disasters in years, nearly 500 migrants, including Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptian and Sudanese nationals, were killed earlier in September, when an overcrowded boat carrying them sank near the Mediterranean island of Malta.