Home European News EU ‘ready’ to support for Cyprus on Lebanon migration

EU ‘ready’ to support for Cyprus on Lebanon migration

EU ‘ready’ to support for Cyprus on Lebanon migration

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The EU is ready to offer extra support to Cyprus as the Mediterranean island faces a sharp increase in refugees arriving from Lebanon, a spokesperson for the EU executive told reporters on Thursday (4 April).

“The European Commission is in close contact with Cyprus at the highest political and technical levels and stands ready to further support Cyprus in managing this new challenge,” Anitta Hipper, the EU executive’s spokesperson on home affairs and migration, told reporters in Brussels.

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Hipper said that EU agencies, such as border agency Frontex and police group Europol, would “continue providing the necessary financial and operational support”, adding that 350 EU agency staff are currently deployed on the ground at the Cypriot frontier.

Lebanon has been one of the countries most affected by the refugee crisis caused by Syria’s civil war, which has run from more than a decade. It currently houses an estimated 1.5m Syrian refugees, according to the UN refugee agency the UNHCR.

The country has been in political crisis for over a year, which has left it without a president and harmed the economy, with real GDP falling by around 40 per cent since 2019.

However, rapid recent increases in migrant numbers from Lebanon prompted Cyprus to declare a “state of serious crisis”, Nicosia’s president Nikos Christodoulides said on Wednesday.

Some 2,004 people arrived in Cyprus by sea in the first three months of this year, compared to just 78 in the same period of 2023, according to Cypriot government data.

“The situation is getting progressively worse, and in the past few days we have essentially been experiencing an onslaught of rotting boats and refugees putting their lives at risk,” said Constantinos Ioannou, Cyprus’s interior minister.

Cyprus wants EU aid to Lebanon to be contingent upon stopping the migrant outflow, Ioannou said.

The EU has provided €2.6bn in development and humanitarian assistance to Lebanon since 2011.

The European Commission’s international partnerships spokesperson, Ana Pisonero, told reporters that the EU continued to work with Lebanon on border control policies, and that a new agreement was expected later this year, without giving further details.

During a visit to Cyprus on 22 March, EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas indicated that the EU could negotiate a migrant control deal with Lebanon on similar lines to the €7.4bn pact it concluded with neighbouring Egypt last month.

“We had worked with Egypt for quite some time, but I consider that it’s absolutely realistic to move in a corresponding manner with Lebanon,” he said.

And Cypriot president Christodoulides is set to meet EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Athens on the sidelines of Greece’s ruling New Democracy party conference at the weekend.


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