7 EU Members Say Conditions in Syria Should Be Reassessed to Allow Voluntary Refugee Returns

NICOSIA, Cyprus  — The governments of seven European Union member states said Friday the situation in Syria should be re-evaluated to allow for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees back to their homeland.

In a joint statement, officials from Austria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta and Poland said they agree on a re-assessment that would lead to “more effective ways of handling” Syrian refugees trying to reach European Union countries.

The seven countries, which held talks during a summit meeting in the Cypriot capital, said the situation in Syria has “considerably evolved,” even though complete political stability hasn’t been achieved.

Denmark had also attended the meeting, but later said it did not sign the joint statement. Although the Cypriot Interior Ministry initially said that all eight EU countries at the meeting had signed the document, it later clarified to The Associated Press that Denmark in fact did not sign.

Cyprus has in recent months seen an upsurge of Syrian refugees reaching the island nation primarily from Lebanon aboard rickety boats.

Earlier this month, the EU announced a 1 billion euro ($1.06 billion) aid package for Lebanon aimed at boosting border controls to halt the flow of asylum seekers and migrants to Cyprus and Italy.

The seven countries said the EU should further boost support for Lebanon to “mitigate the risk of even greater flows from Lebanon to the EU.”

“Decisions as to who has the right to cross a member state’s borders, should be taken by the government of the relevant member state and not by criminal networks engaged in migrant smuggling and trafficking in human beings,” the joint statement said.

The call comes a day afte r 15 EU member countries publicly called for the bloc to boost partnerships with countries along migratory routes in hopes of heading off attempts to reach EU countries.

The countries said that while they “fully embrace” the need to support Syrian refugees in line with international law, they hoped their talks could open a wider debate within the 27-member bloc on the process of granting the migrants international protection.

“What European citizens want from us … are solutions, practical, realistic solutions that can be implemented,” said Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis.

Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said the United Nations’ refugee agency has already “established lines of communication” with Syrian authorities regarding possible voluntary returns in line with international law.

The Cypriot minister said returns would initially be on a voluntary basis, but that could develop into forced returns at a later stage. Much more needs to be done for that to happen because the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t recognized by the EU, he said.

In Lebanon, where anti-refugee sentiment has been surging recently, more than 300 Syrian refugees returned to Syria in a convoy earlier this week.

Lebanese officials have long urged the international community to either resettle the refugees in other countries or help them return to Syria.


This story was first published on May 17, 2024. It was updated on June 7, 2024 to clarify. The Associated Press reported that Cypriot authorities said the governments of eight European Union member states, including Denmark, jointly said the situation in Syria should be re-evaluated to allow for the voluntary return of Syrian refugees back to their homeland. However, Denmark later said that it did not sign the declaration.


NICOSIA - Ambitious plans to restore and reopen the abandoned Varosha resort on the Turkish-Cypriot occupied side of the island invaded by Turkey in 1974 could cost at least $10 billion, said the Turkish newspaper Sozcu.

Top Stories


A pregnant woman was driving in the HOV lane near Dallas.

General News

NEW YORK – Meropi Kyriacou, the new Principal of The Cathedral School in Manhattan, was honored as The National Herald’s Educator of the Year.


It’s Not as World-Famous as Ramen or Sushi. But the Humble Onigiri is Soul Food in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — The word “onigiri” became part of the Oxford English Dictionary this year, proof that the humble sticky-rice ball and mainstay of Japanese food has entered the global lexicon.

DENVER - His Eminence Metropolitan Constantine of Denver was enthroned on Saturday June 22 at the Assumption Cathedral in Denver, CO.

The first weekend of summer brought a tragic yet familiar pattern for American cities wracked by gun violence as mass shootings left dozens dead or wounded at a party in Alabama, an entertainment district in Ohio and a grocery in Arkansas.

PARIS (AP) — Dior staged an homage to sport on the eve of the Paris Olympics on the grounds of the Musée Rodin on the first day of Paris Couture Week on Monday.

ATHENS - This week, a cohort of SNF Paideia Fellows visited SNF's headquarters in Greece as part of an annual trip to Athens to celebrate their completion of the program.

Enter your email address to subscribe

Provide your email address to subscribe. For e.g. [email protected]

You may unsubscribe at any time using the link in our newsletter.