LIMASSOL, Cyprus — A cruise ship rescued more than 300 people, apparently refugees who fled Syria, who were stranded Sept. 25 aboard a small boat off Cyprus.
Cypriot Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told The Associated Press that Cyprus will host the people until authorities determine what will happen to them according to international laws and regulations.
The Cypriot Defense Ministry said the 345 people, including 52 children, will be taken to a reception center near the capital Nicosia where they will be given shelter and medical attention. The ship docked at the east Mediterranean island’s main Limassol port.
Salamis Cruise Lines Managing Director Kikis Vasiliou said that one of its cruise ships was instructed to change course and pick up the people packed aboard the smaller vessel.
The Defense Ministry said the boat issued a distress call early Thursday amid bad weather and had “most likely” set sail from Syria loaded with “civilian refugees.”
Vasiliou said the company received the request from Cypriot Search and Rescue authorities to assist in the rescue operation while the cruise ship was returning to Cyprus from the Greek islands.
The Defense Ministry said the small boat was stranded about 50 nautical miles off Cyprus’ southwestern coastal town of Paphos.
Vasiliou said the cruise ship, with a crew of 230 and a passenger capacity of 800, would be able to give refugees blankets, medical care and food while taking them to the Cypriot port of Limassol.
Thousands of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and northern Africa attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in rickety boats in search of safe havens in Europe, and hundreds have died at sea.