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Cypriot president calls on EU to take action against influx of Syrian refugees from Lebanon

The president of Cyprus said on Tuesday that he had personally asked the head of the European Union executive to intercede with Lebanese authorities so that they can prevent boats full of Syrian refugees from heading towards the island country of the Eastern Mediterranean.

President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters that Lebanon benefits from significant financial aid from the EU both for its own citizens and for the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees it continues to host, but that this does not It’s not without conditions.

“This aid cannot be given as long as we have to resolve this problem,” Christodoulides said, adding that he had spoken personally with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. “It is not only the Republic of Cyprus but the EU itself that faces a serious problem given the phenomena we have witnessed in recent days.”

29 MIGRANTS RESCUED FROM BOAT OFF COAST OF GREEK ISLAND

Over the past 48 hours, more than 350 migrants and asylum seekers, almost exclusively Syrian nationals, have arrived in Cyprus by boat, according to Cypriot government spokesperson Constantinos Letymbiotis. More boats full of migrants are believed to be on the way.

Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Wednesday, September 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Last month, some 450 Syrian migrants on six boats were spotted off the southeastern coast of Cyprus in 24 hours. The six boats had left Lebanon.

The EU is ready to give Lebanon more money to cope with the large number of refugees it is hosting, but “for this to happen, Lebanon should not allow migrants to leave and come to Cyprus” , said Christodoulides.

The Cypriot president said the recent maritime influx of Syrian migrants had returned Cyprus to “crisis mode”, although in recent months he had managed to repatriate more migrants whose asylum requests were rejected than arrivals.

Christodoulides chaired an ad hoc meeting on Tuesday bringing together senior police and government officials in a bid to find ways to deal with the sudden influx of migrants.

He said his government could adopt additional temporary measures to help authorities cope with the influx which may not be “welcome” by Cypriots. He did not specify.

Meanwhile, Cyprus said a government proposal to allow the repatriation of Syrian refugees by designating specific areas of the country as safe zones is “gaining traction” among the island nation’s other EU member states. .

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Justice Minister Constantinos Ioannou said that given the potential risk of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza engulfing Lebanon and other Middle Eastern states, it was up to the EU to reach a collective decision on Syria.

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