220 Syrian migrants rescued off Turkish Cyprus
NICOSIA – Agence France-Presse
The boat had signaled for help some 300 meters off the coast near the port of Kyrenia. AA PhotoSome 220 Syrian migrants crammed onto a fishing boat were rescued off the northern coast of Cyprus yesterday as the vessel hit rough seas in the Mediterranean, authorities said.
Turkish Cypriot authorities were able to rescue the passengers, who were aboard a Tanzanian fishing boat with a number of children among them, after an operation lasting several hours in bad weather and rough seas, local police said in a statement.
The boat had signaled for help some 300 meters off the coast near the town of Kyrenia (Girne) in the Turkish Cyprus.
The passengers were transferred to another vessel and later transported to a gymnasium in Kyrenia.
The statement said 13 of the migrants were hospitalized but that their lives were not in danger.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, more than 2,500 people have drowned or disappeared so far in 2014 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.
On Sept. 10, some 500 people died when their boat was intentionally capsized off Malta in the deadliest such recent incident. Many of the migrants were Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Sudanese.
More than half of Syria's population has been forced to flee their homes since war began in their country in March 2011.
Some 3.2 million have fled beyond the country's borders, and more than 7.2 million have become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.
Cyprus lies about 100 kilometers off the coast of Syria, but has not seen a major influx of refugees as migrants prefer to bypass the island to reach European nations.
In late September, some 345 Syrian migrants were similarly rescued when the trawler they were travelling in hit rough seas off the southern coast of Cyprus.
The migrants initially refused to disembark on the island, demanding instead to be allowed to go to Italy. Many are now living in a temporary camp west of Nicosia.