Cyprus braces for refugee arrivals amid Lebanon war fears

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Cyprus authorities announced on Monday that they are preparing for a potential increase in asylum seekers as clashes near the Lebanese-Israeli border intensify.

Over the weekend, several boats carrying refugees arrived in Cyprus in multiple batches. The initial boat from Lebanon carried 110 people, followed by another boat with an additional 52 refugees. Both vessels were headed for Cyprus's southeastern coastal town of Ayia Napa. Later, two more boats carrying a combined total of 32 individuals were intercepted and taken to the southern port of Larnaca.

On Saturday night, four more boats arrived with 194 Syrians on board, all coming from Lebanon. They were taken to the Pournara reception centre located outside Nicosia.

Loizos Hadjivasiliou, an official from the Interior Ministry, informed the Cyprus News Agency that the Pournara Centre has reached its capacity, and an emergency plan has been activated to accommodate a potential surge in arrivals. These latest arrivals occurred just one week after 264 Syrian refugees arrived on three boats from Lebanon.

Cyprus's Interior Minister, Constantinos Ioannou, has expressed concerns about Beirut's ability to regulate the movement of migrants across the Mediterranean Sea. He pointed to Lebanon's involvement in the Israel-Gaza conflict and the deteriorating situation in the country, which has weakened its ability to monitor its territorial waters and prevent departures.

Lebanon currently hosts around 805,000 United Nations-registered Syrian refugees, but the actual number is believed to be much higher, ranging between 1.5 and 2 million. Alarmingly, approximately 90% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the extreme poverty line, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In recent years, Lebanon has experienced economic hardships, resulting in an increasing number of individuals, including refugees and Lebanese citizens, attempting to leave the country via the sea. Cyprus now finds itself at the forefront of the Mediterranean migrant route, with asylum seekers accounting for 6% of its 915,000 population, marking a record figure within the European Union.

The Cypriot government has been actively managing migration and claims to have reduced the arrivals of irregular migrants by 50% since the previous year.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024