SEA meeting on immigration: "We are at the limit"

The Republic of Cyprus is in contact with Lebanon to stop the high migration flows, the Government Spokesperson said

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The incident in which seven workers who provided humanitarian aid to the civilians of Gaza lost their lives must be condemned by the entire international community, said today the Government Spokesman Mr. Konstantinos Letymiotis.

In his statements to journalists at the Presidential Palace, after the extraordinary meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on Immigration, the Spokesperson said that the meeting had "as an exclusive topic the discussion of the immigration flows of the last days.

The meeting was held in a broad composition, in the presence of the Ministers of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Public Order, Defence, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, the Deputy Minister for European Affairs, the General and the Assistant Attorney General, the Chief of Police and the National Guard and of the Commander of the Cyprus Intelligence Service, Councilor SEA, the topic of discussion was the flows observed in the last few days in our country, the vast majority of which come from Lebanon by sea.

It is indicative that in recent months Cyprus has succeeded in reversing the immigration data, with departures being for the first time more than arrivals, and we want to maintain this good image.

We know of course that the situation in Lebanon, especially after the war in our region, is difficult and we should be prepared. In this context, various measures have been discussed, various actions that the Republic of Cyprus can take, but also in cooperation with the European Union (EU) and European partners".

When asked, he said: "The existing coordination should continue. The SEA will be constantly in meeting and if necessary its convening will be repeated to evaluate what has been discussed today."

Asked what decisions were made today, the Spokesperson said: "They are decisions that we cannot communicate today, but there are various issues that have been raised by all the relevant Ministries. What is important is once again to show solidarity at EU level as well. Cyprus is the closest member state to Lebanon, and in recent days these increased migration flows have been observed, which should be combined and coordinated with the EU to find a way to deal with them."

Asked to refer to the infrastructure of the Republic of Cyprus to receive these flows, the Spokesperson said: “You realize that at the rate the flows are increasing in recent days we are at the limit and this is something we have communicated repeatedly. The infrastructure and capabilities of the Republic of Cyprus, in order to be able to cope adequately with our international obligations, are very specific.

In the last 48 hours we have seen the arrival of over 350 irregular immigrants and asylum seekers in our country and a country like the Republic of Cyprus cannot continue at this rate. It is for this reason that it was deemed critical that the SEA be convened in time, and if the need arises to be reconvened."

Asked if there has been or will be any communication with the Government of Lebanon or Syria, the Spokesperson said: "For Syria, the conditions that mandate international protection for Syrian nationals are known. This is also a discussion we are having after our own initiative at the EU level, whether some areas in Syria can now be characterized as safe. It's a debate that isn't expected to end anytime soon. We will continue to raise the issue and highlight it at EU level.

We are already in contact with Lebanon, new contacts will be made with the authorities of the country to be able to stop these high migration flows that have been observed in the last few days."

To another question, he said that regarding immigration and its various aspects, the Government took the measures it could take and the result can be seen both in terms of the percentage of departures and in terms of the percentage of arrests of traffickers. "At the same time we cannot influence the geography, we are very close to Lebanon. Especially after the 7th of October and the consequent tragic events, this increased flow is observed in our region, especially from Lebanon. All those actions that can be undertaken have been discussed today at the level of the competent Authorities and Ministries and we will be in constant coordination."

Asked to comment on Israel's crackdown on people carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, the Spokesperson said: “I express our sadness and shock at the unjust loss of World Central Kitchen workers who were in the area on a humanitarian aid mission. It is at the same time absolutely reprehensible and in conflict and violation of international humanitarian law the death of the civilian population, especially workers who are there to provide the necessary humanitarian aid to the civilian population of Gaza.

The circumstances under which this tragic incident took place, in which seven workers lost their lives, are being investigated. We have been in contact since very early today and last night with World Central Kitchen, but also with our international partners, in addition to expressing our support, to coordinate and investigate in depth the circumstances under which the incident took place. We believe that this is an incident that the international community as a whole must and must condemn. We, as the Republic of Cyprus, once again express our condolences to the families of the lost."

Asked if there would be a protest to Israel, the Spokesman said: “Let's wait for the circumstances under which this incident occurred to be fully investigated. Within the day I am sure there will be developments."

Asked if this would affect the sea corridor to Gaza from the port of Larnaca, the Spokesperson said: "This does not affect the initiative, but you understand that all security conditions must be taken into account and this is with the due diligence that all involved in this initiative continue, i.e. the implementation of the initiative. Today, as a matter of fact and out of respect for the victims, and to be able to better assess the situation, this re-coordination should take place, but the initiative continues. The needs of the civilian population in Gaza have not stopped. Day by day they are multiplying and it is for this reason that the President of the Republic himself will shortly visit the KSED in Larnaca with the President of the European Parliament who is in our country, precisely for this reason".