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Cyprus, Greece seek tougher EU stance on Turkey migrants

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Cyprus Interior Minister Nicos Nouris and Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarakis demanded the EU no longer tolerate Turkey’s behaviour on the migration issue.

In their joint statements in Athens, Nouris said that during his meeting with Mitarakis, they discussed developments on a unified European policy for immigration and asylum.

Nouris stressed that Greece and Cyprus, as frontline EU countries, face common challenges on migration and asylum.

During the past four years, the number of asylum seekers in Cyprus has reached 4% of the country’s population, Nouris said.

“At the same time, Greece and Cyprus have been called on to manage the influxes from Turkey, which remains immune from our partners’ reactions…this tolerant stance cannot continue.”

Nouris welcomed Greece’s initiative to convene on 19-20 March a summit of the Interior Ministers of five first-entry countries for developing a common position towards a unified European policy for migration and asylum.

The Greek Minister for Migration and Asylum said his discussions with Nouris focused on finding more effective strategies for managing the common migration pressures that Greece and Cyprus are facing.

He noted that both Athens and Nicosia hope to achieve better results on the new European Pact on Immigration and Asylum.

“Both counties have expressed their concerns on the existing provisions of the Pact and the disequilibrium between the responsibilities that the first-line countries assume and the limited solidarity shown by the other member-states,” Mitarakis said.

Nicosia argues the overwhelming majority of migration flows originate from Turkey, a country that fails to implement agreements on migration towards Cyprus.

It says 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 its asylum system.

The EU member state has had the bloc’s highest percentage of asylum seekers for several years.

The republic registered 1,640 first-time asylum applications in the third quarter of 2020, a figure representing 1,848 per million of its population, Eurostat said.

In December, Nouris said that in 2019, Cyprus received approximately 17,000 asylum applications, increasing more than 500% compared with 2015.