Lebanese President Michel Aoun called on Thursday for addressing the illegal immigration file, and to combat the smuggling networks that organise deathly trips from the country’s coasts towards the island of Cyprus.
This came in a statement issued by the Lebanese presidency, following a security meeting in the capital of Beirut attended by Aoun, caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and a number of ministers and security officials.
Lebanon has recently witnessed an irregular migration movement across the sea to Cyprus, to cross from there to Europe.
Aoun stressed in the statement the need to: “Address the social reasons that led these people to leave Lebanon by illegal means, which exposed them to painful accidents at sea.”
He added that those accidents resulted in: “Family tragedies as a number of migrants of different ages died while trying to reach Europe.”
The statement also mentioned that: “The designated prime minister assigned special security teams to take urgent measures and coordinate sufficiently in order to put an end to the phenomenon of smuggling people across the sea.”
According to the statement: “The meeting attendees tasked the army leadership with establishing a specialised centre for search and rescue, in cooperation with the relevant ministries, and asked the competent parties to communicate with the Cypriot authorities in order to implement the necessary procedures for the deportation of migrants.”
The statement continued: “Intelligence and investigative endeavours have also been intensified to uncover the smuggling networks, and maritime patrols are coordinating with the UNIFIL leadership to detect and monitor smuggling boats.”
According to media reports, the Cypriot authorities have recently returned 115 irregular migrants on six boats that arrived from Lebanon.
Following the Port of Beirut explosion in August, the situation in Lebanon has worsened, as the country is enduring the worst economic crisis in its modern history.
Lebanon has been experiencing an intense wave of political polarisation, as regional and Western interests fiercely clash.
The Beirut port explosion intensified frustration and anger among Lebanese youth, in a country that is witnessing since 17 October, 2019, a popular movement against the deterioration of economic and political conditions.