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Cyprus demands Lebanon control migrant flows – POLITICO

Cyprus demands Lebanon control migrant flows – POLITICO

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Cyprus is pressing the EU to designate parts of Syria as safe for returns of migrants, and also to condition EU aid to Lebanon on its preventing migrants from departing.

With a population of 1.25 million, Cyprus is the closest EU member country to Lebanon, with the 264-kilometer sea journey taking about 10 hours by motorboat. The boats carry mainly male Syrian asylum-seekers, according to Cypriot authorities.

Lebanon and Cyprus signed a bilateral agreement in 2020 by which migrants trying to reach the island from Lebanon would be intercepted and sent back. Due to military escalations on the Lebanese-Israeli border since the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas, however, Beirut authorities have recently been less focused on stemming migration, according to the Cyprus interior ministry.

“We cannot allow this situation to continue, let alone manage a new wave of irregular migrants,” Annita Demetriou, speaker of the Cyprus parliament, told Lebanese ambassador Claude El Hajal in a Thursday meeting. She called on Beirut to implement the agreement immediately.

“We are taking concrete steps and demanding from the EU the immediate review of Syria’s legal status, so that the migratory flows to both Lebanon and Cyprus can be reduced,” Demetriou added.

Cyprus media have reported the government may soon start sending migrants to army barracks across Nicosia if the arrivals do not slow, as the migrant camp is now at full capacity.

Christodoulides is due to meet European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Athens Sunday on the sidelines of the party conference of Greece’s ruling New Democracy.

Migration is a hot topic in Cyprus ahead of the June 9 European election, with the far-right Elam party currently polling third.

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