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21 July, 2024
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Cyprus braces for impact as over 3,000 migrants hit record highs

Cyprus and Lebanon at the center of illicit migration routes

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

The recent promising developments in the realm of migration patterns may soon be relegated to history if proactive measures aren't swiftly implemented to address the recent surge in arrivals.

The urgent gathering convened at the Presidential Palace serves as a stark indicator of the growing political unease surrounding a potential regression to conditions reminiscent of years past, where migration metrics consistently showed an upward trajectory.

Yet, even a cursory glance at the migration figures since the year's commencement leaves little room for optimism, particularly in light of the impending unfavorable weather conditions that are poised to exacerbate efforts to curb illegal entries. As per data secured by "K," Cyprus witnessed 3,111 illegal migrant arrivals in the initial three months of 2024, with a staggering 83% hailing from Syrian origins, marking a notably elevated figure since the onset of the Israeli conflict.

Delving into the discussions at the Presidential Palace gathering, attended by a cohort of high-ranking officials spanning various ministries and law enforcement agencies, it becomes apparent that Cyprus finds itself somewhat constrained in its options amidst the looming prospect of increased maritime traffic in the coming months, buoyed by conducive weather conditions.

Revelations shared during the meeting underscored Lebanon's continued pivotal role as the primary departure point for perilous journeys towards Cyprus, with alarming reports highlighting the swelling ranks of migrants congregating on Lebanon's shores, eagerly anticipating embarkation on makeshift vessels bound for Cyprus. Official estimates peg the number of illegal migrants at a staggering 2 to 3 million, prompting Nicosia to actively pursue avenues for diversifying the scope of international protection afforded to Syrian nationals, a matter that has also been tabled for deliberation at the EU level.

Meanwhile, casting a glance towards Lebanon's efforts pre-conflict, commendation is due for the government's commendable strides in exerting control over migration flows emanating from its shores, bolstered by collaborative endeavors and information exchanges facilitated by Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou. However, the eruption of hostilities has inevitably shifted Lebanon's focus towards the simmering tensions within its own borders, further compounded by the escalating influx of migrants awaiting their chance to embark on the treacherous journey towards safety. Against this backdrop, Cyprus remains steadfast in its reliance on Lebanon as a crucial ally, actively soliciting EU support akin to the assistance extended to Turkey.

Transitioning to the realm of trafficking networks operating between Lebanon and Cyprus, recent apprehensions underscore the intricate web of illicit activities underpinning the clandestine movement of migrants. With Lebanon serving as a launching pad for perilous sea crossings and Cyprus emerging as a key destination for reception and bureaucratic processing, authorities grapple with the logistical challenges posed by the surge in migration.

The pressing need for expanded reception infrastructure looms large, with recent arrivals stretching the country's resources to the brink. Urgency underscores the imperative for swift action, prompting the timely convening of the SEA and signaling a readiness to reconvene if circumstances demand, as Cyprus navigates the complexities of managing its international obligations amidst a backdrop of escalating migration pressures.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  migration  |  Lebanon

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