Cyprus wants to send 88 people who fled to Cyprus back to Lebanon. The reception centers on the island are overcrowded.
88 people from Lebanon arrived in Cyprus in two boats over the weekend. The Cypriot security authorities planned to bring them back after a health check, reported the State Broadcasting Corporation (RIK). A man managed to swim to the coast. The police are looking for him.
Cyprus has refused to dock hundreds of migrants in its ports in recent months. Cypriot media reported that most of them were from Syria. Since the beginning of the economic crisis in Lebanon in autumn 2019, Syrians and Lebanese have been trying to get asylum in other countries. The local currency has lost around 95 percent of its value. Food prices rose five times. Bread, flour, and lentils are only affordable as long as the state subsidizes them.
But Lebanon is broke. The political elite has enriched itself for decades and is making no move to bring the country out of the crisis with reforms. Basic medicine is lacking; Rents are skyrocketing; the state no longer supplies electricity and gasoline for generators is so scarce that food goes bad and hospitals fear for their patients.
The Cypriot government keeps saying that Lebanon is a safe third country. The rejection of migrants takes place in agreement with the Lebanese government. Cyprus had already been criticized in the past for its dealings with migrants from Lebanon. In September 2020, the Cypriot coast guard is said to have pushed back, suspended, or repatriated more than 200 people from Lebanon – with no possibility of asylum applications.
In March 2021, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović called on Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris to investigate allegations of ill-treatment. People who may be in need of international protection have sometimes been forcibly returned. Mijatović also criticized poor hygiene in reception facilities and difficulties in accessing health and asylum services.
The Cyprus government repeatedly stresses that refugee camps are overcrowded and calls for help from the EU. In relation to population size, according to EU statistics in 2020, most asylum applications in the EU were received in Cyprus.