Cyprus Mail

Cyprus will keep trying to send back 116 migrants to Lebanon

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Cyprus is dealing “at a political level” with Lebanon’s refusal to accept 116 Syrian migrants, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Tuesday.

He did not give a clear answer to a question on whether Cyprus was unhappy with the development but said Lebanon’s refusal to accept them could be due to a “number of factors.”

It is understood that Ioannou was referring to one of the boats that reached the island over the weekend.

The minister said Lebanese authorities notified Cyprus that a boat registered under Lebanon’s ship registry had departed and may have been in danger.

Cypriot authorities then carried out a search and rescue operation. After liaising with Lebanon, Cyprus then moved to send the 116 Syrian nationals back to Lebanon.

“This was done with three marine police boats.”

Nonetheless, when the boats approached Lebanon, they were informed they would not be allowed to disembark.

Ioannou underlined Lebanon has “a big problem with migration and the matter will be handled at a political level.”

He specified the situation in Lebanon is difficult.

AP in August cited the UNCHR office raising concerns about Cyprus returning Syrian nationals to Lebanon without screening them to determine whether they were in need of legal protection.

Cyprus’ government however maintains the returns are lawful and in line with a bilateral agreement signed with Lebanon in 2004.

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