Turkish and Greek Cypriot coast guards save refugees
MUĞLAAt least 129 refugees, mostly Syrian, have been rescued off the coast of Turkey’s western province of Muğla.
The operation on Nov. 4 followed a failed attempt to reach the nearby Greek island of Rhodes, Turkish coast guard officials have said.
Refugees were reported to have arrived in Gemiler Bay on Nov. 3 and stayed in the woods overnight. A 14-meter day-trip vessel packed with 129 Afghan and Syrian refuges, 33 children among them, then sailed toward Rhodes and was just 5 kilometers away when its engine broke down.
The Turkish Coast Guard discovered the scene during a scheduled patrol in the early hours of Nov. 4.
The refugees, including a number of babies, were taken on board the Turkish craft.
The Greek Cyprus coastguard, meanwhile, rescued 26 people - mainly women and children believed to be Syrian migrants - from a boat sinking in the Mediterranean in an operation completed early Wednesday, officials said.
Some of the migrants had to be plucked from the water in the dark after the eight-meter pleasure boat ran into heavy seas off the island’s southeast coast, the officials said.
The youngest was just five months old and several were kept in hospital for treatment, including a young child suffering from hypothermia and dehydration.
Three of those rescued were arrested on suspicion of people trafficking after others on the boat claimed they had paid for their passage from Lebanon to Greece - 2,000 euros a head for adults and 1,000 euros for children.
State radio said two of those arrested were Syrian and one Lebanese.
It said most of those rescued are originally from Tartus, a government-controlled province on the Mediterranean coast that is one of the safer areas of Syria.
They had travel documents and were believed to have been seeking a better life in Europe.
The rescue took place not far from a British army garrison where 114 migrants who landed on the beach at a British airbase last month are being housed.
Both the army garrison at Dhekelia and the airbase at Akrotiri, from which Britain carries out strikes against the Islamic State group in Iraq, are British sovereign territory and the fate of the 114 remains unclear.
EU member Greek Cyprus lies just 100 kilometers off the Syrian coast but has so far avoided a mass influx of refugees from that country’s conflict like that passing through the Balkans to Austria and Germany.
The U.N. refugee agency says more than 2,500 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, many of them Syrian refugees.