Interior Minister Nicos Nouris has asked for EU support to help Cyprus manage the steep influx of migrants seeking asylum, especially those crossing from the Turkish occupied north.
He said 11 quarantine areas are operating at maximum capacity at reception centres.
Three out of four illegal migrants enter the Republic through the UN-controlled buffer zone, having arrived in the Turkish occupied north from Turkey, Nouris said.
He was addressing Wednesday’s virtual meeting of the Monitoring Committees of EU Home Affairs Funds for 2014-2020.
“It is therefore instrumental for our country to implement measures to prevent the illegal entry from the buffer zone without suggesting in any way whatsoever that these are our land borders”.
“We seek from the EU to recognise such a capability without granting Turkey any kind of political argument.”
Nouris said Cyprus wants its European family to acknowledge “the constant pressure we are under from Turkey, an occupying power, which systematically sends migrant flows through the occupied areas.”
He said that in 2019, Cyprus received approximately 17,000 asylum applications, an increase of over 500% compared with 2015.
“Today asylum applications together with the people granted international protection status add up to over 35,000, or 3.8% of the population.”
Nouris said relatively large waves of migrant arrivals exceeds the Republic’s capabilities to manage them and integrate third-country nationals into society.
He said data for 2020 was misleading due to the pandemic and reduced flights to the north while 1,250 migrants have voluntarily returned to their countries this year.
Due to sham marriages, 836 residency permits have been cancelled while another 1,200 cases are under investigation.
The Cypriot Interior Minister argued for a new EU common asylum and migration policy.
Katerina Wolfova, Head of Unit at the EU Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, said Brussels understood the challenges faced by Cyprus.
“We are here to enhance solidarity.”
She said Cyprus will receive further funding to manage migration challenges.
“We stand ready to continue to cooperate to shape future national programmes for financial support and to discuss other possibilities of financial support for Cyprus.”