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Lebanon, Cyprus joint willingness to stop migrant boats

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Lebanon and Cyprus have reaffirmed their commitment to implement their 2002 agreement that allows irregular migrants arriving by boat on the island to be sent back.

The pledge came after Cypriot Interior Minister Nikos Nouris met Lebanon’s visiting Major General Abbas Ibrahim.

During Tuesday’s meeting, they discussed the latest migrant arrivals by sea from Lebanon to Cyprus.

The two countries reaffirmed their firm willingness to implement the 2002 ‘send back’ deal on irregular migration.

They agreed to coordinate their efforts to prevent irregular arrivals while they did not rule out the possibility of requesting EU border agency FRONTEX support and assistance.

“We’re sending out a clear message that we won’t tolerate anyone engaging in the trafficking of human beings and that we’re defending the interests of our two states,” Nouris said.

The two officials said all migrants aboard boats attempting to reach Cyprus will be returned.

“Any person who leaves Lebanon, in accordance with the deal reached with Cyprus, should be returned home in coordination between the two countries,” Ibrahim said.

In recent weeks, boatloads of migrants have sailed to Cyprus — approximately 172 kilometres) from Tripoli, Lebanon — with Cypriot authorities saying they are full to capacity with asylum seekers.

Ibrahim said that most of the migrants trying to reach Cyprus by boat aren’t Lebanese and maybe trying to flee worsening economic conditions in Lebanon.