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21 June, 2024
 
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EU-Lebanon migration deal sparks fury over alleged pushbacks

NGOs and MEPs slam agreement as ''brutal'' and ''untransparent,'' accusing EU of complicity in human rights violations

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A recent EU-Lebanon agreement has come under intense scrutiny from NGOs and Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), who decry its ''brutal border control'' measures aimed at facilitating the ''voluntary return'' of Syrian refugees to contested ''safe areas'' in Syria, according to a report by Pavlos Xanthoulis in today's printed edition of Kathimerini.

The Euromed Rights Network, representing 68 humanitarian organizations across 30 countries, criticized European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Cypriot President Christodoulides for endorsing the deal. Left-wing and Green MEPs labeled it a "dirty agreement," accusing von der Leyen of negotiating migration pacts with authoritarian regimes without transparency.

European Left MEP Cornelia Ernst condemned the agreement as "one of the many dirty, hidden deals against humanity and international law," a sentiment echoed by Green MEP Damien Careme. Concerns are heightened with nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán set to lead the EU Council later this year.

Euromed Rights highlighted "hostile" actions by Cypriot authorities towards Syrian migrants attempting to leave Lebanon for Cyprus. Reports allege migrants were stranded at sea for days without food and water before being forcibly returned to Lebanon. Additionally, President Christodoulides' April 13 decision to close the asylum system for Syrian nationals due to increased arrivals has sparked controversy.

Foreign Minister Constantinos Ioannou has refrained from commenting on allegations of "pushbacks" by Cypriot authorities. However, Nicosia appears to have curbed migration flows from Lebanon amid these rumors.

Wadih Al-Asmar, president of the Euromed Rights network and the Lebanese Human Rights Centre, criticized the €1 billion aid package announced by von der Leyen for Lebanon from 2024 to 2027, calling it a "smokescreen for the European elections." Al-Asmar argues the funds merely extend previous support levels and do not address Lebanon's current economic challenges or the refugee crisis.

Al-Asmar's calculations, supported by European Commission data, indicate that direct financial support to Lebanon since 2011 amounts to €1 billion every four years. This suggests the announced aid does not reflect Lebanon's worsening conditions, hosting an estimated 3 million Syrian refugees.

Prior to von der Leyen's trip to Lebanon, larger financial support packages were considered but ultimately, the Commission opted for the smaller €1 billion package due to concerns about corruption in Lebanon and the influence of Hezbollah, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the EU.

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Cyprus  |  Lebanon  |  migrants  |  migration  |  immigration

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