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Saturday May 25, 2024

Cyprus suspends Syrian asylum applications as it struggles with arrivals spike

More than 1,000 people have arrived in Cyprus on boats from Lebanon since the start of April

By Reuters
April 15, 2024
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides speaks with the media. — AFP/File
Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides speaks with the media. — AFP/File

NICOSIA: Cyprus has suspended the processing of asylum applications from Syrians following a sharp increase in irregular arrivals this month, authorities said on Sunday.

More than 1,000 people have arrived in Cyprus on boats from Lebanon since the start of April amid deepening tensions in the Middle East. It has triggered calls from Nicosia to its European Union partners to do more to assist Lebanon, as well as reconsider the status of war-torn Syria, which is at present considered unsafe to repatriate asylum seekers.

“This is an emergency measure, it’s a difficult decision to protect the interests of Cyprus,” Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters.

Christodoulides and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen later discussed the possibility of offering a reinforced package of economic aid to Lebanon, a Cypriot government spokesperson said in a statement. To this end it was agreed they would jointly visit Lebanon after a preparatory visit by Commission officials, the statement added.

Lebanon, in the throes of a deep financial crisis, hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

Cyprus, the EU’s easternmost state and the closest to the Middle East, lies about 160-km west of the shores of Lebanon or Syria.