Officials in Cyprus say Beirut’s possible involvement in the Israel-Hamas war has made Lebanon lag in migration management.
Cyprus has received 458 Syrian refugees from Lebanon in a week, Cypriot authorities have said, as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to spread into a wider regional conflict.
Authorities in Cyprus said on Monday that they are bracing for a larger influx of asylum seekers, as clashes on the Lebanese border with Israel continue to escalate.
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Several boats came to Cyprus on Saturday in batches. The first boat from Lebanon had 110 people, and the second a further 52. Both had been heading for Cyprus’s southeastern coastal resort of Ayia Napa.
Later, two more vessels were intercepted with a combined 32 people on board and taken to the southern port of Larnaca.
Then late Saturday night, 194 Syrians arrived aboard four boats from Lebanon and were taken to the Pournara reception centre outside Nicosia.
Interior Ministry official Loizos Hadjivasiliou told the Cyprus News Agency that the Pournara centre was now full, and an emergency plan had been activated to handle an increase in arrivals.
The Saturday arrivals come a week after 264 Syrian refugees arrived on three boats from Lebanon.
Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou accused Beirut of not regulating migrant movements across the Mediterranean Sea.
He said that Lebanon’s possible involvement in Israel’s war in Gaza and the generally worsening situation in the Middle Eastern country had weakened Beirut’s efforts to monitor its territorial waters and prevent departures.
Lebanon hosts some 805,000 United Nations-registered Syrian refugees, but officials estimate the actual number is far higher, ranging between 1.5 and 2 million.