Syria migrant arrivals double

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Migrant arrivals from Syria and Lebanon have witnessed a twofold increase in recent months as a result of the escalating conflict in Gaza, said Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Monday.

“The recent surge has impacted the overall decline in irregular migrant numbers, preventing the decrease earlier anticipated,” Ioannou told CyBC radio.

Despite a Mediterranean-wide rise in irregular migrant arrivals, Cyprus has experienced a 50% reduction, mainly attributed to a significant decline in entries through the Turkish-occupied north.

Stricter controls at Turkish airports tightened regulations on student visas, and awareness campaigns in sub-Saharan Africa contributed to a 75% decrease in arrivals from those regions.

However, as the minister noted, due to the turmoil in Gaza, Lebanon is less focused on guarding its coasts.

If not for the recent spike in arrivals, the overall reduction would have approached 60%.

As Syria is declared an “unsafe country”, returning Syrian migrants is difficult, an issue that Nicosia has tabled before European Union bodies.

“Considering Syria’s status as an unsafe country, migrants from the country may not face deportation, but Cyprus has requested the EU Commission to reassess this status,” said Ioannou.

He emphasised the need for official recognition of revised safe zones in Syria, shifting the focus towards providing aid to those truly in need.

“The disproportionate number of migrants absorbed by Cyprus in recent years has strained the state’s capacity to assist those genuinely requiring support,” Ioannou remarked.

He highlighted plans to enhance migration management through collaboration with Greece, citing mutual benefits due to shared challenges faced by both countries.

The Interior Minister will visit Greece this week to discuss migration strategies, including ways to increase returns.

“Nicosia will also be advocating for Frontex, the EU border agency, to play a more active role in intercepting illegal arrivals from Syria and Lebanon,” said the minister.

Addressing violence between African and Syrian migrants last week at the Pournara reception centre, Ioannou stated that significant improvements had been made in the past year.

He asserted that poor conditions were not the cause of the incident.

“The Pournara facility has undergone €25 mln in upgrades, including enhancements to the health clinic and the creation of a safety zone, resulting in expedited processing of migrants. “