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Migrant reception capacity to be increased

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Instructions to gradually increase the capacity of the Pournara migrant reception centre to host more individuals and beef up staff to expedite application processing were given by Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou.

During Monday’s meeting with relevant services and departments of the ministry, Ioannou was briefed on the readiness level for managing large flows of migrants in light of the recent increase in arrivals due to the Middle East crisis.

It was decided that all necessary measures should be taken to gradually increase the capacity to host an additional 1,000 individuals at the Pournara centre.

Orders were given to coordinate with the Ministries of Justice and Health, the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare, and the Police to reinforce the staff of the services located at the camp to expedite asylum applicants and, consequently, help the centre empty faster.

Additionally, officials discussed various options to open an additional migrant reception centre that could be used for the temporary accommodation of migrants in the event of mass influx.

Nicosia has requested additional equipment, such as tents and an immediate appeal sent to the European Union for the deployment of personnel (first-line reception officers) to directly assist Cyprus in its plan to manage larger arrivals.

Around 500 Syrians have arrived on the island on at least six separate occasions in the past nine days on boats from the Lebanese coast, a number higher than usual.

Cyprus has relied on deepening cooperation with Beirut to help stem irregular migration through intercepting departures from Lebanon.

But with the Israel-Hamas war raging and clashes on the Lebanese border with Israel escalating, Cyprus fears the exodus could gather pace.

The island lies about 170km west of Lebanon at its closest point.

“As things develop, we need to take precautionary measures to effectively deal with any eventuality,” government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis told CyBC TV.