27 refugees saved from drifting boat off Cyprus

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Nicosia, April 1 (IANS) At least 27 refugees, among them six women and three children, were saved overnight from a drifting Turkish-registered fishing boat off the coast of Cyprus, authorities said on Friday.

Cyprus’s Defence Ministry said the refugees were spotted 14 nautical miles (26 km) off the coast after the vessel sent out a distress signal, Xinhua reported.

The refugees were taken aboard a police launch to a local tourist resort where they received a medical examination before being transferred to a refugee centre near Nicosia. Two women who had suffered hypothermia were taken to a hospital.

All refugees were Syrians, except one Kurdish family.

Cyprus is the most eastern region of the European Union and lies close to the countries where refugees and migrants originate from, but it is seldom chosen as a stepping stone to Europe as the only means out is by plane.

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The refugees said that they had paid $2,000 each to a Turkish trafficker for the 100-nautical-mile trip (185 km) to Cyprus.

After one day at sea, the trafficker left the fishing boat and boarded another vessel which approached, saying he would be back with fuel, the refugees said.

Police said a man from Syria, aged 39, was arrested on suspicion of being an associate of the Turkish trafficker.

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