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Cyprus

Rescued migrants settling in at temporary camp

Visibly weary from a three-day journey at sea but also disappointed that they failed to reach their final destination of the European mainland, the refugees rescued off the coast of Larnaca early on Sunday arrived at the temporary camp at Kokkinotrimithia around lunch time.

The camp received 87 of the 115 people that included 19 women, 30 children and five infants.

According to Deputy Commander of Civil Defence Loucas Hadjimichael, 20 of the 115 requested asylum and have been transferred to the reception centre in Kofinou.

Three more will be transferred to Kokkinotrimithia later on Sunday after undergoing medical tests and five unaccompanied minors have been put under the protection of the Welfare Office in Larnaca.

Among the survivors are a total of 35 minor children, some of whom arrived at the centre in Kokkinotrimithia barefoot and without adequate clothing.

In statements, Hadjimichael said that some of the people were exhausted after the three-day journey at sea and had been treated at the Larnaca port when they arrived on rescue vessels before dawn.

He said Civil Defence volunteers had been at Kokkinotrimithia from early in the morning to prepare the temporary camp for the new arrivals, setting up tents amid Sunday’s unusally high temperatures.

“We are doing everything humanly possible to help everyone,” he said.

Hadjimichael said medical services were onsite ready to offer any help needed. He also said that on Monday more detailed health checks on the refugees would begin.

Asked about the children who arrived at the centre barefoot and without clothes, Hadjimichael said arrangements have been made by the Cyprus Red Cross to provided what they needed.

He also said that besides being weary, the refugees were frustrated because “they hoped to reach another European destination, either in Germany or Sweden.” The small boat they set sail on had been heading for Greece.

Hadjimicheal expressed the belief that despite their disappointment, the refugees would cooperate with the authorities as was done with the 337 persons of Syrian origin who were rescued of the island’s coast in September 2014 and who had also stayed at Kokkinotrimithia.

The Director General of the Cyprus Red Cross Takis Neophytou in statements to the press said: “We are working closely with the authorities and in particular the Civil Defence to coordinate in meeting the additional requirements.”

“Our role as a humanitarian organisation is to meet the humanitarian needs and we have already started to do that,” he said.

Neophytou said that due to the refugees’ frustration at not having reached the European mainland, they had initially been somewhat uncooperative.

“We talked to them and promised to follow agreed procedures. We told them that they were in an EU state that follows the European regulations and they would have to be patient in getting where they want to go, ” he said.

He said the Red Cross, in its warehouses had all the essentials the refugees would need but invited the public to help out with either food or clothing if they wished to do so.

Nicosia police boss Demetris Demetriou said all the necessary security measures were being taken.

Cypriot authorities early on Sunday rescued the 115 people who were in distress in a small boat some 40 nautical miles off Cyprus` south east coast.

The refugees are of Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian origin, authorities said.

According to the CNA, the boat’s engine had packed in. The refugees had been travelling for three days and two nights.

The ship had departed from Syria, stopped at Tripoli in Lebanon, and was on its way to Greece.

JRCC Larnaca immediately planned and coordinated a Mass Rescue Operation (MRO) according to the National SAR plan «NEARCHOS» in order to save the refugees with the participation of air and naval units of the Navy Command and the Cyprus Port and Police. Three ships, two from the National Guard and one from the Port Police with helicopter backup, managed to reach the boat and the refugees were transported to Larnaca .

At the same time, the ministry of interior, as the responsible authority for the implementation of the National Plan «ΝΑFKRATIS», was informed accordingly and all the relevant departments of the State were also informed to prepare for their reception, including medical care and hospitality in accordance with the new European directives, it added. A meeting of relevant authorities took place at around 2am. Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos was at the port on Sunday morning. He said the refugees had been heading for Greece as a stop-gap to Europe.

The refugees disembarked at Larnaca Port and were given food, water and medical attention. None needed hospitalisation, Hasikos said.

Hasikos said the government was satisfied that the rescue had gone smoothly and thanked rescue personnel for working through the night.

He said three men were arrested, aged 47, 33 and 28, including the captain. ‘They are not cooperating with police,” said Hasikos. The trio are due in court on Monday, police said. Reports said the refugees had paid 4,000 euros each to be taken to Europe.
(The Cyprus News Agency was the main contributor to this report)

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