Cyprus said Wednesday it is suffering a “migration crisis” and seeks to suspend asylum applications to those entering the Mediterranean island illegally.
President Nicos Anastasiades held an emergency meeting Wednesday with ministers agreeing on a series of measures to tackle a spike in irregular migration.
“A request will be submitted to the European Commission to take action in favour of the Republic of Cyprus, including granting it the right to suspend asylum applications by people entering the country illegally,” government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos told reporters afterwards.
He said the data suggests that Cyprus faced a “demographic change” and “acute socio-economic effect of the migrant crisis”.
Nicosia also blames Turkey for deliberately “instrumentalising” the migrant issue by allowing migrants to cross over from the Turkish occupied north of the divided island.
For the first 10 months of 2021, 10,868 irregular migrants arrived in Cyprus, 9,270 illegally crossed the green line in a “prescribed and conscious policy by Turkey”, said Pelekanos.
He said migrant flows this year are 38 per cent higher than the whole of 2020.
“Despite new procedures for speedy examination of applications, the current flows add to the more than 33,000 people illegally residing in the Republic.
“It should also be noted the percentage of asylum seekers exceeds 4% of the population when in the rest of the EU frontline countries it does not exceed 1%,” said Pelekanos
Cyprus says it has the highest number of first-time asylum applications among all 27 EU members, relative to its population of roughly one million.
Nicosia expects “EU solidarity for the immediate relocation of asylum seekers to other member states, but also the repatriation of asylum seekers to their countries of origin,” said Pelekanos.
The government says that 15,000 migrants have had their asylum applications rejected but can’t be deported because there’s no coherent EU policy – or agreement with their home countries – on sending them back.
Cyprus is also calling on the European Commission to offer emergency measures in a “deteriorating situation”.
“We expect urgent assistance in dealing with the problem in line with the decisions taken for Lithuania and Poland,” said Pelekanos.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, 61 migrants on a boat – including 28 children – were escorted to shore on the eastern coast of Paphos; they are thought to be from Syria and Lebanon, police said