Cyprus suspends Syrian asylum applications as it struggles with arrivals spike

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - NICOSIA (Cyprus), April 14 — Cyprus has suspended the processing of asylum applications from Syrians following a sharp increase in irregular arrivals this month, authorities said today.

More than 1,000 people have arrived in Cyprus on boats from Lebanon since the start of April amid deepening tensions in the Middle East. It has triggered calls from Nicosia to its European Union partners to do more to assist Lebanon, as well as reconsider the status of war-torn Syria, which is at present considered unsafe to repatriate asylum seekers.

“This is an emergency measure, it’s a difficult decision to protect the interests of Cyprus,” Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters.

Cyprus, the EU’s easternmost state and the closest to the Middle East, lies about 160 km (100 miles) west of the shores of Lebanon or Syria. It recorded more than 2,000 arrivals by sea in the first three months this year, compared to just 78 over the same period in 2023.

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In practice, the measure means asylum seekers will be confined to two reception camps offering food and shelter, with no other benefit. Those who choose to leave those facilities will automatically forfeit any kind of benefit, and will not be allowed to work, government sources said.

Christodoulides visited Lebanon last week, and is liaising with the European Commission on how Brussels could assist Beirut in halting the flows. Lebanon, in the throes of a deep financial crisis, hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. — Reuters

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