Cyprus braces for migrant influx amid Lebanon war fears

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Cyprus has received an influx of 458 Syrian migrants from Lebanon in one week and is bracing for more as the Israel-Hamas war threatens to spread, officials said.

An emergency meeting has been called by the Interior Minister on Monday about the migration flows.

Authorities said 194 Syrians arrived late on Saturday aboard four boats from Lebanon and were taken to the Pournara reception centre outside Nicosia.

Interior minister Constantinos Ioannou warned that the island’s ability to handle large numbers of migrants was limited.

He said the possible involvement of Lebanon in Israel’s war and the generally worsening situation had weakened Beirut’s efforts to monitor its territorial waters and prevent illegal departures.

The first boat that arrived on Saturday held 110 people, and the second a further 52. Both had been heading for the 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. Interior ministry official Loizos Hadjivasiliou said the Pournara centre was now full, and an emergency plan had been activated to handle an increase in migrant arrivals because of the Israel-Hamas war.

The European Union member has also asked Brussels for emergency assistance. “Additional tents have been requested in case our capabilities are exceeded,” he told the Cyprus News Agency.

Officials said “hundreds of Syrian refugees” in Lebanon were preparing to make the sea journey to Cyprus.

A week ago, 264 Syrian migrants arrived on three boats from Lebanon, a relatively short journey across the Mediterranean.