Concerns over razor wire laid across the divide

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The government has come under fire from opposition parties over a decision to lay razor wire along a section of the UN-controlled ceasefire line to deter asylum seekers.

It said the barbed wire is needed to stem migrant inflows from the Turkish-occupied north, but critics say the plan is “ineffective” and only feeds the fear that partition will be cemented amid a renewed push to resume dormant peace talks.

Crews began laying the razor wire this week, some 30 kilometres west of the capital, Nicosia, at Astromeritis.

Critics, including the communist party AKEL, said the move leaves “huge question marks since it implies the delineation of borders and entrenching our homeland’s division.”

Farmers authorized to cultivate land inside the buffer zone initially voiced some concern over access to their plots, but the government said it would act to ease access.

Nicosia says Cyprus has the highest per-capita number of asylum applications in the European Union.

Most of those asylum-seekers cross a porous buffer zone after making their way to the north, often by commercial flights from Turkey.

AKEL spokesman Stefanos Stefanou acknowledged Cyprus has to deal with large migrant inflows but insisted that “methods implying borders between states” aren’t the way.

“Nowhere in the world has the migration issue been solved by erecting walls, fences or barbed wire,” said Stefanou.

“These are (former US President Donald) Trump’s ideas which this government is obviously copying.”

Other opposition parties said the move was badly timed since it gives fodder to the Turkish Cypriot leadership and its patron Turkey which wants to tear up an agreed-upon federal framework to reunify Cyprus and strike a deal based on two equal states.

Peace group Unite Cyprus Now tweeted that it expected authorities to “spend as much effort on reducing barriers as they do on building them.”

The government defended the move, saying that laying the razor wire is entirely in line with EU regulations governing movement across the divide and that Brussels and the UN had been briefed beforehand.

Government spokesman Kyriakos Koushos said no “political or other message” could be derived from the move other than to protect public safety and obstruct “unchecked migrant inflows that Turkey feeds by design, through our occupied areas.”

Cyprus has accused Ankara of actively encouraging migrants to apply for asylum in the south to “change the island’s demographic character.”

Koushos said contact between Greek and Turkish Cypriots isn’t impeded since there are nine designated crossing points.

Many of those crossing points currently remain closed because of coronavirus restrictions. (source AP)