The Cypriot authorities said on Monday that they had returned 88 Syrian migrants to Lebanon, after they tried to reach the island of Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean by two boats.
According to what was reported by the Associated Press, quoting a source in the Cypriot authorities, the Cypriot navy had intercepted two boats carrying 48 men, 25 children and 15 women, 15 kilometers away in the territorial waters, after coastal radar detected the two boats as they approached the Cypriot coast last Sunday evening.
The Cypriot Interior Minister, Nikos Norris, said, “The Cypriot rescue crews are completing the search for a man among five men who jumped from a boat after being intercepted by the navy, noting that four men were arrested, and the latter managed to swim away.”
He pointed out, “The refugees were transferred to a boat to return them to Lebanon, under the guard of the police.”
The Cypriot government signed an agreement with the Lebanese government last year, stipulating that the latter would take back anyone trying to reach Cyprus by sea.
Many criticisms have targeted the agreement signed between the two countries by human rights organizations, which they consider to violate international law, given that the majority of migrants are not given the opportunity to apply for asylum.
For his part, the Cypriot Interior Minister considered that his country has the right to protect its borders from waves of illegal immigration.
The Cypriot government had asked the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, to stop the flow of migrants coming to it from several countries, including Turkey, Syria and Lebanon.
Since 2019, more than 1,337 Syrian immigrants have arrived in Cyprus by sea for its part, the Cypriot government said that the number of immigrants who received or applied for protection in Cyprus represents 4% of the estimated population of more than one million people.