President Nikos Christodoulides’ impromptu visit to Lebanon on Monday appears to have been dictated more by the need to be seen to be doing something about the increased flow of Syrian refugees to Cyprus in the last weeks than by a specific action plan to deal with the problem. There had been little preparation for the visit, which appears to have been hastily arranged, without any time for the correct procedure to be followed.

Last week over 15 boats arrived, carrying some 800 migrants, increasing concerns that we are witnessing a new trend that could veer out of control. Just when the arrival of migrants by land – crossing the dividing line from the north – had stopped, people started arriving by sea from Lebanon. And there is every possibility that this flow will increase, taking into account the fact there are some two million Syrian refugees in Lebanon living in very poor conditions, according to the UNHCR.

It was inevitable that alarm bells would ring in Nicosia and that the government would need to act. President Christodoulides brought up the issue at a meeting with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen in Athens on Sunday and they discussed ways to stop the migrant influx. According to the Cyprus News Agency, they also agreed on the messages Christodoulides was to convey to the Lebanese government on behalf of the EU.

At his meeting with Lebanon’s prime minister, Najib Mikati, the president had a “very constructive dialogue, during which the cooperation of the two countries, with substantial assistance from the European Commission was agreed upon,” said a statement by the presidency. Reports quoting unnamed government sources said that Cyprus would push for a bigger EU assistance package for Lebanon if the flow of migrants stopped. If it did not stop, the same source said, it would mean the Lebanese government did not have the political will to take action. It was implied this would affect the EU assistance package.

Although Lebanon is home to two million Syrian refugees, it has received peanuts in support from the EU compared to Turkey, which has been given billions of euro over the years, and Egypt, which last month negotiated a €7.4 billion aid package. Lebanon, in contrast, has received some millions as humanitarian help. The problem is that Lebanon has a weak, unstable government, a failing economy and a bankrupt state, which makes it even more difficult for it to secure a sizeable assistance package from the EU.

Will Lebanon’s government be able to clamp down on trafficking networks operating in the country, as Mikati agreed with Christodoulides? The political will may exist, but whether the Lebanese authorities would be able to tackle the trafficking networks is another matter. Lebanon may not receive the EU assistance it is being promised if it fails to deliver, but for Cyprus such a failure would be a disaster.