29 Syrian refugees rescued off Cyprus
Cypriot rescuers picked up 29 Syrian refugees on Friday who had set out from Lebanon on a perilous journey to Cyprus in an inflatable dingy, Cypriot police said in a statement, Xinhua reports.
The police said its marine branch traced the refugees on radar as they sailed off the southeastern tip of Cyprus and escorted them to a fishing port.
On board the dingy were 14 men, six women and nine children under 16.
They told the police they had fled their homes in Syria and had taken refuge in Lebanon, from where they sailed for Cyprus.
"We came here to find a better life," one refugee told police.
After their identities were confirmed, they were transferred to a temporary reception center near Nicosia where they are expected to apply for political asylum.
Cyprus is a popular destination for many Syrians who fled either to Turkey or Lebanon, as many of them have relatives who have lived on the eastern Mediterranean island for many years.
The number of refugees has swelled to over 15,000 in the last few years in the country, prompting the Cypriot government to apply for help from the European Union (EU).
Cypriot foreign minister Nikos Christodoulides told his fellow ministers from EU countries in Brussels on Friday that Cyprus has the highest ratio of refugees relative to its population. He said all member states must share the burden of hosting refugees.