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Cyprus in text message alert to stop migrant influx

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Cyprus is launching an SMS offensive to prevent more migrant arrivals by making it clear the EU state does not serve as a gateway to mainland Europe.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris told the Associated Press the text-message blitz aims to counter “disinformation” propagated by people traffickers that securing asylum status in Cyprus will grant them a “passport” to other EU countries.

Nouris said arriving migrants are effectively “trapped” in Cyprus because the island isn’t part of the Schengen area — those 26 European nations that have abolished their borders and permit unrestricted travel between them.

He said Cyprus, with a population of roughly 880,000, has “by a wide margin” the largest number of migrants relative to its population in the 27-member bloc.

Nicosia argues around 3.8% of those living in Cyprus are asylum seekers, while that number is under 1% in other front-line EU states, like Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta.

It’s estimated that 25-30% of all migrants currently in Cyprus are refugees fleeing conflict.

According to Asylum Service Statistics, Syrians filled the most asylum applications last year (around 26%), followed by people from Georgia, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cameroon, Vietnam, Egypt, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

Many migrants also cross over from the Turkish occupied north to seek asylum in the Republic.

Nouris said around 700 migrants will remain confined to a reception centre on the outskirts of the capital Nicosia until a small scabies infestation there is completely eliminated.

He expects confinement measures to be lifted “soon” after all those with scabies have been treated.

The migrants were confined to the centre since late March under the government’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

Restrictions were lifted last month, but the migrants weren’t allowed to leave the reception centre. (source AP)