Interior Minister Nicos Nouris thanked Poland for donating 80 housing units at a new Reception Centre for Applicants for International Protection, saying it puts EU solidarity into practice.
Speaking at the centre’s opening ceremony, Nouris said: “One year ago, when we started discussing the European Pact on Migration and Asylum and the need for mandatory solidarity towards frontline Member States, Poland came forward and put theory into practice.”
“This is the true meaning of solidarity in an extremely challenging period, with irregular migration flows continuing at the same pace, stretching to its limits the already overburdened asylum and reception system in Cyprus.”
Over the past four years, Cyprus has been the Member State with the highest number of first-time asylum applicants in relation to its size, said Nouris.
He said that the proportion of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus corresponds to 4% of the country’s population.
“Unfortunately, during the first months of 2021, the increasing irregular arrivals, especially of Syrian nationals, either by sea or land through the Green Line, indicate an alarming trend.
“The continuation of the large numbers of migration flows from Turkey is the main challenge for Cyprus.
“More than 70% of applicants for international protection come directly from Turkey, or through the areas which are not under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus government.”
Nicosia has asked the EU to develop and implement a legally robust operation dedicated to preventing irregular migratory flows from Turkey before they reach Cyprus, equivalent to the arrangement for Greece in the EU-Turkey Statement of 2016.
“Despite the enormous efforts by the Cypriot authorities to manage the disproportionate migratory pressures, we are still in an extremely difficult situation.”
He said the division of the island by a 180-kilometre-long ceasefire line “creates unique conditions for the development of irregular migration.”
The government established the new centre in ‘Limnes’, for applicants whose application for asylum is examined under the accelerated process and consequently enter the return procedure.
A pre-departure centre for applicants whose asylum claim is rejected will soon be established next to the Reception Centre to effectively implement returns.
“I am pleased to emphasize that the final process of these pre-fabricated houses, which consist of many components, was concluded in Poland, in Gdańsk – in the city known as the cradle of Polish Solidarity Movement,” said Polish ambassador Irena Lichnerowicz Augustyn.
She said Poland strongly supports the use of available mechanisms limiting tragedies in the Mediterranean Sea and reducing migratory pressure on the frontline countries like Cyprus.
“Together with Cyprus, we share a position on the importance of cooperation with third countries, border protection, prevention of secondary movements or return issues.
“We are more than aware of the commitment and effort the Republic of Cyprus has been struggling with in recent years with the unprecedented influx of migrants.
“As soon as Mr Minister Nicos Nouris informed us about the difficulties, we decided to act quickly.”
Poland delivered 80 pre-fabricated units that provide shelter to 240 people.
“We perceive this gift as both a duty of solidarity with the Republic of Cyprus, our proven partner in the European Union and as a contribution to building an effective, humane and safe European migration policy,” said the ambassador.