Rescue services came to the aid of a small fishing boat in distress off the south east coast of Cyprus. The boat was packed with 114 refugees from Syrian, Lebanon and Palestine, authorities said.
“On September 5th at 23:25 hours, the Joint Rescue and Coordination Centre (JRCC) Larnaca received information from a merchant vessel that a small boat, which was sailing around 40 Nautical Miles south-east of Larnaca, required recovery and rescue by transmitting distress signals,” a press release issued by the JRCC said.
The boat which had 60 men, 19 women, 30 children and five infants on board began drifting after its engine failed. The refugees had been travelling for three days.
The fishing boat had left Syria, stopped at Tripoli in Lebanon, and was on its way to Greece. The refugees had hoped to travel on from Greece to reach the rest of Europe.
JRCC Larnaca immediately planned and coordinated a Mass Rescue Operation (MRO) in order to save the refugees with the participation of air and naval units of the Navy Command and the South Cyprus Port and Police. Three ships, two from the National Guard and one from the Port Police with helicopter backup, managed to reach the boat and by 7am the refugees were transported to Larnaca.
The refugees disembarked at Larnaca Port and were given food, water and medical attention. No one required hospitalisation. Later on they were taken by bus to the camp at Kokkinotrimthia outside Nicosia, which has previously hosted Syrian refugees but has been closed since January.
Three men, aged 47, 33 and 28, including the captain, were arrested. Apparently they have refused to cooperate with the police. According to reports, the refugees had paid 4,000 euros each to be taken to Europe.