Cyprus is calling on the EU to help prepare for a large influx of migrants from the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
The Middle Eastern country has already received 458 Syrian refugees from Lebanon in a week, Cypriot authorities have said.
As clashes on the Lebanese border with Israel continue to escalate, Cypriot authorities said they are bracing for more to flee the conflict.
Several boats came to Cyprus on Saturday – the first boat from Lebanon had 110 people, and the second another 52, with both heading for Cyprus’s southeastern coastal resort of Ayia Napa.
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.
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Cyprus has requested emergency assistance from Brussels, including additional tents “in case our capacity is exceeded”, Mr Hadjivasiliou added.
Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou warned that Cyprus’ capacity to handle large numbers of migrants was limited, and accused Beirut of not regulating migrant movements across the Mediterranean Sea.
According to the most recent official statistics, migrant arrivals by boat in August and September more than tripled from the same period last year.
The country is understood to be preparing for a scenario in which more than 100,000 people may need to be evacuated from Lebanon, Israel, and the broader region if the violence in the Middle East escalates.
Government sources told the Cyprus Mail the government is “intensively preparing for all scenarios”.
Lebanon currently hosts around 805,000 United Nations-registered Syrian refugees. However, officials estimate the actual number is far higher, ranging between 1.5 and 2 million.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 90 percent of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live below the extreme poverty line
Following economic crisis in the country four years ago, an increasing number of would-be migrants – both refugees and Lebanese – have attempted to leave by sea.
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Cyprus says it has now become a “front-line country” on the migrant route into the Meditteranean.
Asylum seekers comprise 6 percent of the 915,000 population in the republic, more than any other country in the EU.
UNHCR say that Cyprus has been sending Syrian refugees back to Lebanon, adding it was “extremely concerned”.
The UNHCR office in Cyprus saud that deportations and transfers between states “without legal and procedural safeguards for persons who may be in need of international protection” are against international and European law – although the Cpryiot government insists the returns are being carried out lawfully.
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