Recent Influx of People Raises Concerns for Cyprus

ildib refugee camp

Cyprus is concerned about the increase in Syrian refugee arrivals from Lebanon. Syrian asylum seekers have been arriving in droves, with over 350 recorded in just two days- reported.

Migrants Discovered a New Route to the EU

Cyprus has expressed concern about an increase in the irregular migration of Syrian refugees from Lebanon. On Tuesday, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said it was “deeply concerning” that the irregular arrival of Syrian asylum seekers and refugees had been consistently increasing in recent weeks, with more than 350 recorded in two days. Last month, 450 Syrian migrants on six boats were spotted off the southeastern coast of Cyprus within a 24-hour period. All six boats had departed Lebanon.

“I fully understand the challenges Lebanon is facing, but exporting migrants to Cyprus should not be the answer and cannot be accepted,” he said after a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola.

Cyprus, the EU’s easternmost state, is only 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Syria and Lebanon, and asylum seekers from the former have increased significantly in recent months.

Lebanon, which is in economic crisis, currently hosts approximately 800 000 United Nations-registered Syrian refugees, but officials estimate that the actual number is much higher, ranging between 1.5 and two million.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, approximately 90percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the extreme poverty line.

Is Cyprus the New Lampedusa?

In recent years, Cyprus has had the highest number of asylum applications per capita when compared to other EU member states. According to UNHCR statistics, an average of 30 people have arrived on the island each day since the beginning of the year.

Nicosia has asked the European Union to consider declaring certain areas of war-torn Syria safe, allowing asylum seekers to be repatriated to neighbouring countries.

Syria has been at war since 2011, when protests erupted against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government. Al-Assad reclaimed control of two-thirds of the country with the assistance of his allies, Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese armed group Hezbollah. The northwest is still controlled by opposition forces.

The EU is willing to give Lebanon more money to cope with the huge number of refugees it hosts, but “for this thing to happen, Lebanon shouldn’t allow migrants to leave and come to Cyprus,” Christodoulides said. The Cypriot president stated that the recent seaborne influx of Syrian migrants has returned Cyprus to “crisis mode,” despite recent efforts to repatriate more migrants who had their asylum applications denied than those who arrived.

Last month, EU Commissioner Margaritis Schinas said the European Union could reach an agreement with Lebanon to reduce the outflow of refugees and asylum seekers, as Cyprus complained about a surge in arrivals from the Middle East. The EU has reached agreements with several countries to assist them in dealing with increased migration burdens, with the ultimate goal of preventing a spillover into the bloc’s 27 member states. The pacts have been sharply criticised by rights groups.


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