Cyprus: If Lebanon collapses, all of Europe will have refugee problem

NNA – European Union member Cyprus has warned against allowing Lebanon to ldquo;collapse,rdquo; noting that such a development would create a refugee crisis for Europe.

In a letter to European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said he has raised the urgent need for aid to Lebanon, where it is estimated that 2.5 million Syrians have taken refuge.

ldquo;The information we have from the authorities in Lebanon is that there is an increase in Syrians moving to Lebanon.

quot;Lebanon is a barrier. If Lebanon collapses, then all of Europe will have a problem,quot; he said.

In recent months, Cyprus has seen a surge of asylum seekers, most of them Syrian, arriving by sea from Syria and Lebanon.

The minister said the government has reduced arrivals of irregular migrants by 50 percent, thanks to external factors and specific measures taken.

Ioannou said the processing of asylum applications had been speeded up and now took three months instead of nine.

He said the government aims quot;to reduce the financial benefits for asylum seekers to make Cyprus an unattractive destinationquot;.

The government argues that Cyprus is a quot;frontlinequot; country on the Mediterranean migration route, with asylum-seekers making up six percent of the 915,000 population in government-controlled areas ndash;- the highest proportion in the bloc.

Although asylum applications are down, there has been a rise in migrants arriving by boat, with a 60 percent increase recorded in the first seven months of the year. — AFP/Naharnetnbsp;