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Cyprus fears migrant spike from Turkey

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Cyprus is concerned over a migrant spike from Turkey after Ankara declared it would stop keeping refugees on its territory, a move that has caused tension on its border with Greece.

Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said there was concern as Cyprus sees itself on the European Union frontline in tackling migration flows while it suspects Turkey of trying to alter the island’s demographics.

“With what is happening at the Greek border with the migrant flows from Turkey, and Cyprus being first in the number of asylum seekers per population…we are certainly concerned,” Anastasiades told reporters Tuesday.

“We want to evaluate what steps we can take so that, without bypassing human suffering…we will be able to prevent efforts to alter the demographic character of the country,” he added.

Cyprus government spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos told reporters that “about 100 people have congregated along the Green Line and are asking for political asylum amid reports of more waves of refugees from Turkey”.

Anastasiades had a telephone conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Tuesday to discuss the situation, while a ministerial committee on migration, with the participation the Foreign and Interior Ministries, will also meet later Tuesday.

Koushos said Cyprus is already overwhelmed with asylum seekers and irregular migrants and said the EU needed to act.

“There has been a 320% increase over the last two years in the flow of refugees, the number of refugees in Cyprus has reached 3.5% of the general population”.

He called on the EU to “finally take serious decisions on the issue of migration, regarding refugees from countries with unstable conditions, but also economic migrants.”

He said European Council President Charles Michel is to visit Cyprus to discuss migration.

Koushos said Brussels must take political decisions at the highest level as “Cyprus, Greece, Italy and Malta are the EU’s borders”.

On Tuesday, Mitsotakis, with EU leaders, was visiting Greece’s border with Turkey near the Evros river, where thousands of migrants have congregated after Turkey decided to stop enforcing a 2016 accord with the European Union whereby it prevented migrants entering the bloc in return for funds.

According to reports, more than 10,000 migrants, mostly from Syria, other Middle Eastern states and Afghanistan, have reached Turkey’s land borders with Greece and Bulgaria.