27 Syrian refugees rescued off Cyprus

AFP , Tuesday 6 Dec 2016

Cyprus authorities said on Tuesday that 27 migrants believed to be Syrian refugees from Aleppo were rescued after their boat was towed ashore on the island's northwest coast.

Marine police went to the aid of their vessel after it was spotted drifting in Cyprus waters.

The rescued migrants told police the captain of the boat had abandoned them and escaped on a jet ski, state radio said.

Police said the refugees will stay in the Paphos area overnight before being transferred to a reception centre outside the capital Nicosia.

They said 16 men, five children and six women were saved, and that a pregnant woman was taken to hospital as a precaution.

Police believe the boat departed from Mersin in Turkey, and state radio reported the migrants as saying they had paid 2,000 euros ($2,150) each to be taken to Cyprus.

It also reported a witness at the dock to where the boat was towed as saying his fiancee and some friends were on board after escaping from the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo.

EU member Cyprus lies just 100 kilometres (60 miles) off Syria but has so far avoided a mass influx of refugees from that country's conflict.

However, the Paphos area has been a frequent hotspot for traffickers from Turkey. In September and November, 83 and 128 Syrian migrants respectively were rescued there under similar circumstances.

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