250 Syrian Migrants Rescued off Cyprus

250 Syrian Migrants Rescued off Cyprus250 Syrian Migrants Rescued off Cyprus

Some 250 Syrian migrants crammed onto a fishing boat were rescued off the northern coast of Cyprus on Sunday as the vessel hit rough seas in the Mediterranean, Turkish media reported.

Turkish Cypriot authorities were able to rescue the passengers, who were aboard a Tanzanian fishing boat with a number of children among them, after an operation lasting several hours in bad weather and rough seas, Hurriyet newspaper reported.

The boat had signalled for help some 300 metres off Cyprus.

The passengers were transferred to another vessel and later transported to a gymnasium in Kyrenia in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus, Turkey-based Dogan news agency reported.

According to the UN refugee agency, more than 2,500 people have drowned or disappeared so far in 2014 while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

On September 10, some 500 people died when their boat was intentionally capsized off Malta in the deadliest such recent incident. Many of the migrants were Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Sudanese.

The migrants, including up to 100 children, drowned after smugglers sank their ship when the passengers refused to change to a smaller vessel, survivors said.

More than half of Syria’s population has been forced to flee their homes since war began in their country in March 2011.

Some 3.2 million have fled beyond the country’s borders, and more than 7.2 million have become internally displaced, according to the United Nations.