Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri (R) meets with Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides (C) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (L) in Beirut, Lebanon, 02 May 2024. EPA-EFE/WAEL HAMZEH


EU hands €1 billion to Lebanon to fight migration flow to Cyprus


European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has announced a €1 billion support package for Lebanon in a bid to help Beirut quell the stream of migrants to Cyprus.

Von der Leyen visited Lebanon to make the announcement, on May 2, in an effort to show her support for Cyprus. The country is struggling with record-breaking numbers of asylum seekers entering via Lebanon.

The European Union will provide money try to stop migration but also wants to support the return of Syrian refugees to what are deemed safe areas in Syria.

Lebanese forces will receive equipment and training from Europe to improve border security.

In April, Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides announced that, due to the recent surge in Syrian migrants arriving by sea, his country suspended the examination of asylum applications from Syrians.

Some 2,004 people arrived in Cyprus by sea in the first three months of this year, compared to just 78 in the same period of 2023, according to official data.

In a joint press conference, von der Leyen said Lebanon struggled with tensions and war in the region and that the EU “strongly supports” the country and its people and wanted to “reinforce their longstanding co-operation”.

She announced the aid package will be operational from this year until 2027. The stated main goals were to support and improve basic services such as education and health.

In addition, an emphasis was on economic, financial and banking reforms, which were “key for long-term improvement of the overall economic situation in the country”, she said as Lebanon struggles with economic turmoil and towering inflation.

Security and stability were also mentioned.

Von der Leyen noted that “it would be very helpful for Lebanon to conclude a working arrangement with Frontex”, Europe’s border agency, “on information exchange and situational awareness”.

She also stressed the importance of the possibility of legal migration and resettlement in Europe but added there was a need to fight illegal migration and people-smuggling.

Christodoulides said: “The current situation is not sustainable for Lebanon, not for Cyprus and not for the EU.

“It hasn’t been sustainable for years, but developments, especially in recent months, force us to seek immediate solutions.”

He also called for the UNCHR to address the issue of voluntary returns and re-examine the safety situation in certain areas of Syria.

The EC has said in the past that it would adhere to the UNCHR parameters and thresholds.

Lebanon and Cyprus want the EU and the UN to recognise more areas in Syria as safe, enabling easier repatriation of people to the country.

Aid workers and human rights organisations oppose that, saying the country is not safe whatsoever, anywhere.

There were no questions taken during von der Leyen’s press conference.

The EU has been increasingly engaged with third parties to try to stop the high numbers of migrants departing toward Europe.

The EC already signed agreements with Egypt and Tunisia, while a deal was also made with Mauritania. That country will get €210 million in return for implementing stricter strict border controls.