Cyprus and Lebanon reaffirmed an agreement for Lebanese authorities to take back migrants aboard boats trying to reach Cypriot shores.
Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris on Tuesday said that Lebanese and Cypriot police and naval forces will intercept migrant boats departing from Lebanon. They would also seek assistance from the bloc’s border agency Frontex in coastal surveillance.
“We’re sending out a clear message that we won’t tolerate anyone engaging in the trafficking of human beings and that we’re defending the interests of our two states,” Nouris said after meeting with Major General Abbas Ibrahim, head of Lebanon’s Directorate of General Security.
The #Republic of #Cyprus and #Lebanon reaffirmed today their firm willingness to implement the Agreement between the two countries on irregular #Migration and to coordinate their efforts, within the framework of the international law, to prevent irregular arrivals. pic.twitter.com/KUvYi8YTBy
— Υπουργείο Εσωτερικών (@MinInteriorCY) October 6, 2020
On his part Ibrahim said: “Any person who leaves Lebanon, in accordance with the deal reached with Cyprus, should be returned home in coordination between the two countries.”
He noted that most of the migrants trying to reach Cyprus by boat aren’t Lebanese and may be trying to flee worsening economic conditions in Lebanon.
“Living conditions in Lebanon have become more difficult because of the economic crisis that we are passing through and this is what is maybe making these people migrate to nearby countries,” Ibrahim continued.
Cyprus has recently come under fire by Human Rights Watch for allegedly pushing back 200 migrants and refugees arriving from Lebanon last month without heeding their claims for asylum. They also claimed that they were threatened.
Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said the Cypriot government received no such complaints and that Cypriot authorities acted lawfully and in line with EU directives. He said all migrants were returned to Lebanon safely under a Cypriot police escort.