Almost 300 people, thought to be Syrian refugees, are refusing to leave a cruise ship that rescued them off the coast of Cyprus.

Salamis Cruise Lines managing director Kikis Vassiliou said they were insisting they be taken to Italy.

The cruise ship, Salamis Filoxenia, is in the port of Limassol and all those rescued are said to be in good health.

The Cypriot defence ministry said 52 children were on the small fishing boat that had sent a distress signal.

The boat was spotted in rough seas 55 nautical miles south of Paphos.

Cypriot authorities said they had picked up a radio distress signal as the boat was caught in rough seas.

Of the 345 migrants, about 65 willingly left the ship at Limassol and were taken by bus to the Kokkinotrimithia camp near to Nicosia.

Negotiations with those refusing to leave were continuing this morning with doctors, nurses, civil defence and Red Cross workers on hand, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, 300 Russian passengers who had been due to continue their cruise to Haifa in Israel, had their journey cancelled and were put up in Limassol hotels.

“We did our outmost to save their lives, to give them food, support and now they want to destroy this company,” Vassilou was quoted by AFP news agency as saying, adding that the company’s losses as a result of the rescue had run into hundreds of thousands of euros.