Syrian immigrants refuse to leave rescue ship, evicted

Syrian immigrants refuse to leave ship
Nicosia, Sep 26: Hundreds of Syrian immigrants, rescued from a distressed fishing trawler in a Cypriot-led operation Thursday, refused to disembark and had to be evicted by police, sources at the southern Cyprus port of Limassol said Friday.

They said the immigrants demanded to go to another destination claiming they paid $6,000 each to be taken to Sicily, Xinhua reported .

A Cypriot cruise ship, the Salamis Philoxenia, plucked 345 people from a fishing trawler in rough seas 100 km southwest of Cyprus after it had sent out a distress signal.

However, when they arrived at Limassol port at around 9 p.m. Thursday night the immigrants said they did not want to disembark in Cyprus where authorities had made preparations to host them at a special camp in line with European Union directives.

Port sources said that just before daybreak Friday, the ship was blacked out and dozens of policemen entered the vessel.

A short time later, the immigrants, among them 52 children, came out of the cruise ship.

After processing of their papers, they were bussed to the camp near capital Nicosia which was hastily equipped to receive them in a slow moving operation.

By midday, only about half of the immigrants had been processed.

The fishing trawler was towed into Limassol port but the police said no members of the crew came forward.

Some immigrants claimed that the skipper had abandoned them in the middle of the night before the distress signal was sent out.

A police spokesman told Xinhua that the claim is being investigated, along with the possibility that the members of the crew presented themselves as immigrants to avoid prosecution and possible stiff prison penalties for people trafficking.


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