Around 345 migrants, believed to be Syrian refugees, agreed to disembark from a cruise liner that came to their rescue off the coast of Cyprus after hours of negotiations.
Cyprus authorities launched a search and rescue operation off its coast for the 300 people stranded at sea yesterday.
According to the rescue party, the operation went smoothly and the migrants were plucked from the sea by the cruise ship, Salamis Filoxenia. All the passengers were reported safe.
The ship brought its 700 passengers to the port of Limassol, the rescued migrants and 300 of its cruise passengers.
The migrants, mostly women and children, were refusing to disembark in Cyprus, demanding they be taken to Italy, according to Salamis Cruise Lines Managing Director Kikis Vassiliou.
“We did our outmost to save their lives, to give them food, support and now they want to destroy this company,” AFP news agency quoted Vassiliou as saying. According to him, the company is facing losses of hundreds of thousands of euros as a result of the rescue.
The 300 Russian cruise passengers who were en route for Haifa, Israel, had their journey cancelled and were put up in Limmasol hotels, Al Jazeera reports.
A distress signal was sent early Thursday morning from a small vessel, believed to be a fishing boat, sailing some 50 nautical miles (92 km) south-west of the town of Paphos, on Cyprus’s western coast.
Cyprian authorities dispatched helicopters to the scene.
It has been reported that the vessel has been struggling with rough seas caused by bad weather.