Cypriot Salamis Filoxenia cruise ship rescues around 350 Syrian migrants

25 September 2014 (Last Updated September 25th, 2014 18:30)

Cyprus-based cruise ship Salamis Filoxenia has rescued around 350 migrants from the sea off the coast of the eastern Mediterranean island.

Cyprus-based cruise ship Salamis Filoxenia has rescued around 350 migrants from the sea off the coast of the eastern Mediterranean island.

The fishing trawler boat was reportedly sailing towards Sicily, Italy, when it was spotted by cruise liner crew approximately 50nm south of Paphos, Cyprus.

According to the Cyprus defence ministry, the ship’s crew picked up a radio distress signal sent from the trawler, which was caught in rough weather.

The migrants are believed to be Syrian refugees consisting of women and about 52 children. All were brought safely onboard the cruise liner and taken to the port of Limassol, Cyprus.

"Only 65 people were prepared to leave the cruise ship…the majority refused to leave and insisted on being taken to Italy."

Salamis cruise line general manager Kikis Vasiliou was quoted by the Cyprus Mail as saying: "It was quite a difficult operation."

Doctors, nurses, civil defence workers and the Red Cross have extended support to the refugees.

Only 65 people were prepared to leave the cruise ship and officials have taken them to the Kokkinotrimithia near Nicosia; however, the majority refused to leave and insisted on being taken to Italy, AFP reported.

The stand-off finally ended following negotiations between the Cypriot police and the migrants, who eventually disembarked.

Meanwhile, Filoxenia has been forced to cancel its voyage and the ship’s 300 passengers had to be accommodated in hotels on Limassol.

"We have on standby 230 people onboard and another 300 passengers who were supposed to sail tonight to Haifa.

"Unfortunately we are forced to cancel this cruise," Vasiliou added.

According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), almost 1,900 people have died in Mediterranean so far this year while attempting to migrate.