“We are at our limit,” the government noted after convening an emergency meeting.

The government of Cyprus convened a special emergency meeting—involving the ministers of the interior, foreign affairs, justice and public order, defense, and other high-ranking officials—at the presidential palace on Tuesday to discuss migration. Speaking to reporters, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis described the meeting’s “exclusive topic” as “the discussion of the immigration flows of the last days.”

Like many other Mediterranean islands, Cyprus is hard hit by wave after wave of migrants. Since Sunday afternoon, 476 have arrived on Cypriot shores in ten boats, setting a new record. 

Following a meeting with European Parliament President Roberta Metsola on Tuesday, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides called the higher influx of migrants of recent weeks “deeply concerning,” adding that while he fully understands the challenges Lebanon—where most of the migrant boats originate—is facing, “exporting migrants to Cyprus should not be the answer and cannot be accepted. To that end, the EU should also stand by Cyprus in tangible ways.”

Metsola sought to assure Christodoulides, saying that the EU had prepared a “big unprecedented legislative package that will hopefully go through the European Parliament.” With it, she added, they would “be able to answer both in the short and medium term, but also hopefully in the longer term, the individual national challenges that countries such as yours are facing with regards to migration.”

On March 22nd, EU commissioner Margaritis Schinas suggested that the EU could strike a deal with Lebanon to bring a halt to the flow of migrants, but added that this would require considerable preparation. A similar deal with Egypt has yet to prove its worth.

Nicosia is not waiting for Brussels to step up its efforts, however, as it is “already in contact with Lebanon,” according to Letymbiotis. 

“New contacts will be made with the authorities of the country so that they can also stop these high migration flows that have been observed in the last few days,” he added.

With a population of just over one million, Cyprus is one of the smallest EU member states, with the current highest migrants-to-indigenous-population ratio. 

According to Eurostat, within the EU, the island also has the highest proportion of asylum applications relative to its population. 

The government representative told the Cyprus Times that, in recent months, Cyprus had “succeeded in reversing the migration data with deportations for the first time outnumbering arrivals” and that they wanted “to maintain this.”

However, he said, the situation in Lebanon “is difficult” and something the Cypriot government should be prepared for. 

Lebanon, which is in a deep economic crisis, hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria, which has been mired in a civil war since 2011. Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th has pushed the entire region into even greater instability.

While vague on specifics, the spokesman added that “various measures” had been discussed, hinting at “various actions that the Republic of Cyprus can take, but also in cooperation with the EU and European partners.”

When asked whether Cyprus’ infrastructure is adequate for receiving such migrant flows, the spokesman admitted: “at the rate at which the flows are increasing in recent days we are at the limit and this is something we have communicated repeatedly.”

“A country like the Republic of Cyprus,” he continued, “cannot continue at this rate and it is for this reason that it was considered crucial to convene [the security meeting] … and, if necessary, to reconvene.”

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