Cyprus Mail

Arrests are made ‘every day’ for migrant smuggling

Justice minister Marios Hartsiotis, justice ministry
Justice minister Marios Hartsiotis

Police must crack down on migrant smuggling networks, Justice Minister Marios Hartsiotis said on Thursday, amidst a surge in arrivals.

Over a dozen boats from Lebanon have reached Cyprus’ shores this week, prompting the government to ramp up its immigration policy.

Authorities have warned Pournara reception centre may soon become too cramped, amid reports army camps may be used to accommodate migrants.

“It is well known that the source of the problem, including at the level of smugglers, is in Lebanon,” Hartsiotis told reporters during a press conference over the ministry’s year in office under the new government.

“Action has been taken by the government and Lebanese actors to alleviate the problem, and we can see some progress and reaction from the specific country,” he added.

Nonetheless, Hartsiotis said Cyprus’ police ranks have also been strengthened to apprehend smugglers, with arrests being made daily.

“The issue of smugglers does not only concern Cyprus; there are circles that operate in a wider geographical area throughout the region. There are also the smugglers’ circles that coordinate in Lebanon, there are also the circles in Syria,” he said.

Closer to home, police are doing everything they can to tackle the rings operating from Cyprus, Hartsiotis underscored.

The minister underlined that “catching a smuggler is no simple matter” and there are legal issues which get in the way of their arrest – though he did not delve into specifics.

Nonetheless, Cypriot authorities do have “very specific evidence” which they are discussing with Lebanon and at the EU level.

Earlier this year, MPs warned that those arrested for smuggling may not actually be the main perpetrators, but rather boat drivers who pay less due to the higher risks involved.

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