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Cyprus struggling to cope with asylum seekers

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Cyprus has the highest percentage of asylum seekers in the EU per population and struggles to manage the numbers of migrants it blames Turkey for sending.

Cypriot government Spokesperson Kyriacos Koushos said on Wednesday blamed Turkey for sending migrant flows to the country in “a coordinated and targeted manner”.

He said tackling irregular migration is a significant problem for the government, as Cyprus is on the EU’s frontline of migration flows to Europe.

“We are the only country in which the percentage of asylum seekers has reached 4% of its population…in all other European countries; this percentage does not exceed 1%,” said Koushos.

He said Cyprus was suffering when Turkey was trying to build a positive agenda with the EU.

Koushos said the migration issue is part of the discussions between the EU and Turkey.

He recalled the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement on the return of irregular migrants, which Cyprus cannot enforce as Ankara does not recognise the Republic.

“One should look at the matter in its correct perspective…Cyprus does not have adequate infrastructure to accommodate such a large number of asylum seekers, but it is criticised because it is unable to manage this flow.”

Koushos said most migrants arriving in Cyprus are single, aged 25 – 35 and are without a family.

“This matter should be a source of particular concern, as well as the financial cost to the Republic of Cyprus.”

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 2019, Cyprus received approximately 17,000 asylum applications, increasing more than 500% compared with 2015.