Hundreds of Syrian refugees rescued by a Cypriot cruise liner disembarked Friday after refusing to leave the ship unless they were to Italy for asylum.
The 345 refugees, including more than 50 children, were picked up at sea after their small vessel ran into rough seas Thursday and placed a distress call. The cruise ship, Salamis Filoxenia, that rescued the Syrians brought them to the island's main port, Limassol, where Cypriot authorities said they were unable to deliver the refugees to Italy, but offered them shelter, food and health care.
About one-fifth of the refugees agreed to leave the cruise ship Thursday, but the others held out until Friday. After talking to police and other officials, the remaining refugees left the ship and were taken to a facility near Nicosia, the capital.
Cyprus lies about 100 kilometers west of war-torn Syria in the Mediterranean Sea, and it is believed the large number of refugees from Syria's conflict wish to migrate to locations farther away from the war zone.
Thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and northern Africa have attempted perilous crossings of the Mediterranean Sea, often in overloaded small boats, in the hope of reaching Europe and the prospect of a better life. Accidents at sea have killed many hundreds of would-be refugees in recent months
Material for this report came from AP and Reuters.