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Cyprus calls on EU to provide assistance after influx of Syrian migrants

Cyprus called on the European Union (EU) to provide “practical assistance” as the eastern Mediterranean island is grappling with an influx of Syrian migrants.

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou has said that Cyprus has intercepted 13 boats with a total of 739 migrants on board off its southeastern coast over the last three days.

All the boats departed from the coasts of Lebanon, less than 200 km southeast of Cyprus, with nearly all passengers being Syrian nationals, Ioannou added.

The minister also stressed the need for EU funds allocated to Lebanon to be linked to improved policing of Lebanese coasts and waters by local authorities. Cyprus is also calling for enhanced surveillance of the Lebanese coast by Frontex, the EU’s security agency.

The total number of Syrian refugees who have arrived by boats in Cyprus so far this year has reached 2,500, according to official data.

President Nikos Christodoulides has said that he had a phone conversation Tuesday with President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to request her personal intervention, saying that Cyprus is “in a state of crisis” as a result of the refugee influx.

Cyprus, along with other EU member states, is advocating for declaring two regions in Syria as safe, which would enable the return of Syrian migrants. However, under current EU regulations, migrants from Syria are entitled to refugee protection. ■

Famagusta Gazette