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Cyprus ‘at its limit’ on migration flows (updated)

ΠτΔ – Συμβούλιο Εθνικής Ασφάλειας
Image from Friday's session of the National Security Council meeting.

Cyprus is at a “breaking point” with the influx of migrants, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said on Tuesday after a snap National Security Council meeting was convened to address the issue.

Chaired by President Nikos Christodoulides after over 450 migrants arrived to the country’s shores in 24 hours, the meeting took place at the palace with the foreign, interior, justice and defence ministers.

The deputy attorney general, police chief, national guard chief, secret service director and deputy ministers of social welfare and European affairs also attended.

Letymbiotis stressed Cyprus has taken measures, illustrated by the number of migrants who leave and arrest of smugglers.

“At the same time, we cannot influence geography, we are very close to Lebanon,” he said.

“After October 7 in particular and after the subsequent traffic events, there has been a heightened flow of migrants, particularly from Lebanon.”

Speaking during a meeting with EU Parliament President Roberta Metsola, Christodoulides stressed: “The number of Syrian migrants coming from Lebanon has been consistently increasing in recent weeks, which is deeply concerning.

“I fully understand the challenges Lebanon is facing, but exporting migrants to Cyprus should not be the answer and cannot be accepted. To that end, the EU should also stand by Cyprus in tangible ways.”

Metsola also underlined the support of the EU.

“On migration next week, we have a big unprecedented legislative package that will hopefully go through the European Parliament,” she said. “With this legislative package, we will be able to answer both in the short and medium term, but also hopefully in the longer term, the individual national challenges that countries such as yours are facing with regards to migration.”

All the measures which could be taken were discussed during the meeting, though Letymbiotis said he could not discuss what they were. He specified all ministers put forth a number of issues.

Christodoulides called for the meeting on Monday evening to discuss the flow of migrants in the past few days “of which the majority are arriving from Lebanon via sea”. Most of the arrivals are Syrian nationals.

What matters is that solidarity is shown at EU level,” Letymbiotis said. “Cyprus is the closest EU member state to Lebanon and in the last few days there have been increased migration flows of which we should tackle in coordination with the EU.”

Asked if Cyprus had the infrastructure to deal with the influx of migrants, the spokesman underlined that “at the rate of which migrants are arriving in the past few days, we are at our limits, and this is something we have repeatedly communicated.

In the past 48 hours, hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers have reached Cyprus, he said. “A country like Cyprus cannot go on at this pace.”

He did not rule out another National Security Council meeting convening “if needed”.

Responding to a question on whether the government has been in touch with the state of Lebanon or Syria, Letymbiotis said the conditions of international protection for Syrian nationals “are well known”.

This is why Cyprus is trying to designate parts of Syria as safe, he specified, but “this is not something expected to draw to any conclusion anytime soon,” he added.

Where Lebanon is concerned, the government is already in touch but there will also be more contacts with the authorities of the country so “they too can cut off the increased migration flows observed in the past few days.”

In less than 48 hours, five boats with over 450 migrants reached Cyprus.

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