Cyprus will adopt changes on the way the Green Line regulation is implemented in a bid to combat irregular migration from the north after a decision taken by the cabinet on Wednesday, said Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides.
Petrides argued the changes, increased checks and restricted movement for groups of the population, are necessary to clamp down on illegal immigration which has reached new heights.
Talking to reporters after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Petrides pointed out that the situation on the ground has changed since 2004 when the implementation code was adopted, arguing that the influx of irregular migrants was not at the same level as it is today.
He added that together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they tabled a proposal to amend the Green Line Code to prohibit the movement of third-country nationals arriving from an illegal point of entry into areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.
They also proposed to prohibit the movement from the government-controlled areas to the occupied north holders of temporary residence permits issued by Cypriot authorities.
“Due to the increased need for rigorous controls, which are not currently carried out to the necessary extent, more checks will be carried out by the police at crossing points, which will need to be adequately staffed,” Petrides said.
He added that he has been authorised by the Council of Ministers to promote bills imposing penalties and administrative fines for illegal entry into the Republic of Cyprus from unauthorized entry points from the Turkish occupied north.
He said the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence have also been urged to step up their controls at unregulated entry points along the ceasefire line.
It is understood that the government is walking into a grey area as the Green Line Regulation is a directive issued by the European Union and cannot easily be tampered with as it is directly connected to the Cyprus problem.
In earlier comments to the Financial Mirror, an official of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cyprus said they are keeping an eye on the matter, believing the government will not make any changes to the Green Line regulation which enables free movement.
UNHCR official, Emilia Strovolidou told the Financial Mirror that the situation is far from getting out of hand as is the public perception and there is no need for panic.
She said the 9,449 asylum applications submitted in 2019, represent a significant increase compared to previous years (7,713 in 2018) but are 423 less than those submitted in 2004.