Cyprus blames Turkey for ‘sending migrants’

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Cyprus will lobby Brussels to take action over the “disproportionate” numbers of asylum seekers it receives, claiming Turkey has created a new Mediterranean route to the island.

Nicosia says most migrants enter illegally via the UN-patrolled buffer zone from the Turkish occupied north.

Cyprus has had the highest proportion of asylum applications in the EU for four consecutive years.

The Foreign and Interior Ministries are joining forces to highlight the migration issue at a teleconference of EU Ministers of Foreign and Home Affairs on 15 March, and upcoming discussions on Turkey.

Foreign Minister Nikos Christodoulides and Interior Minister Nikos Nouris met on Thursday to coordinate their approach in negotiations on the migration issue and Turkey’s stance.

In a joint statement on Friday, they said: “The percentage of asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection amounts to 4% of the population, a particularly high percentage, given that in all other member states the percentage is close to 1%.”

The EU Commission has tabled a new Pact on Migration and Asylum which seeks a more centralised approach within the bloc on migration policy.

Cyprus says its dealing with a large flow of irregular migration from Turkey, a country that “fails to implement all agreements regarding migration towards Cyprus”.

“In fact, Turkey’s stance has led to the creation, rather than prevention, of a new migration route in the eastern Mediterranean, which disproportionally burdens Cyprus, and places enormous strain on the national asylum system.”

The two ministries have agreed on an action plan at a political and technocratic level, in Brussels and other international fora, to present the extent of the migration crisis faced by Cyprus and to ensure Nicosia receives the assistance required to effectively address it.

Cyprus is pushing for more assistance from the bloc in terms of funding and personnel while also seeking more effective legal returns.

In December, Nouris said that in 2019, Cyprus received approximately 17,000 asylum applications, an increase of over 500% compared with 2015.