According to information from government circles, the number of migrants in the island state with around 1.1 million inhabitants has increased dramatically. „Over the past six months, Cyprus has witnessed an unprecedented and excessive increase in asylum seekers. The number of asylum applications increased by 55 percent compared to 2017, „said Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides WORLD.
Already in 2017, an increase of 56 percent over the previous year was registered. „With a total of 7,000 asylum seekers and the same number of asylum seekers, Cyprus clearly outperforms its fair share,“ said Interior Minister Konstantinos Petrides, referring to the distribution of refugees within the EU.
Most of the refugees are Syrian citizens, to whom international protection must be granted, emphasized Cyprus chief diplomat Christodoulides.
At the same time he criticized the neighboring country Turkey. From there most migrants would come: „In this regard, Turkey’s failure to comply with the obligations under the EU-Turkey Agreement to prevent new migration flows aggravates the situation. In addition, the lack of implementation of the EU-Turkey readmission agreement with regard to Cyprus deprives us of the possibility of returning third-country nationals who do not need protection. “
Christodoulides called on EU countries, together with their partners in Africa, to tackle the root causes of migration more closely and deepen cooperation. „That was from the beginning of the migration crisis to the clear position of Cyprus,“ he said.
Interior Minister Petrides said his country was committed to granting asylum to vulnerable people in conflict areas: „At the same time, in a country of our size, one must be realistic in terms of reception capacity, but also in ways of integrating people.“
EU argues over mandatory quotas
The minister therefore called for a fair distribution of refugees in the EU. „It is imperative that we quickly agree on a ‚Common European Asylum System‘ based on responsibility and solidarity and supporting the EU front-line countries in tackling the uneven migratory pressures, for example through a mandatory distribution of people.“
The EU Commission has made numerous proposals for a European asylum system in recent years. However, Member States are still delaying implementation because they can not agree.
The biggest issue is the introduction of mandatory quotas for the distribution of refugees who have reached European soil. The topic will be on the agenda again next week at the meeting of EU Home Affairs Ministers.
Many Syrians who reach Cyprus leave by boat directly in Syria or come from the northern coast of Lebanon. However, rich Syrian refugees often travel by plane: they fly over Istanbul and land in Ercan in northern Cyprus, which has occupied Turkey since 1974.
In addition to Syrians, Africans, Palestinians and even Lebanese are increasingly among the migrants in Cyprus. In Lebanon, there is an economic crisis that is seriously affecting the population. At the same time, smuggling networks have become more widespread in Lebanon.
In the past, Cyprus was not an attractive destination for migrants. The island has no land connection to other EU countries. Accordingly, it is difficult to move from there to Germany, Austria or Italy. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos has pledged assistance to Cyprus. Brussels wants to provide experts, technical equipment and funds.