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Cyprus to arrange migrant repatriation with Pope

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Pope Francis wants to arrange the repatriation of some migrants to Italy during his landmark visit to Cyprus next week, Cypriot officials said on Friday.

The leader of the Catholic Church will visit Cyprus on 2-4 December, the second pope to do so.

Cypriot government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos confirmed that the Pope wants to arrange for an unspecified number of migrants to be relocated with the details to be arranged.

“As for migration, the intention of the Holy See and Pope Francis to relocate a number of migrants to the Vatican will be discussed,” Pelekanos told reporters Friday.

“This is an act that proves the solidarity of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to our fellow human beings in need.

Pelekanos said the move “confirms the Vatican recognizes the problem facing the Republic of Cyprus today, due to increased migration flows”.

“And the need for a fairer distribution between EU member states to alleviate the problem in the front-line countries.”

European Union member Cyprus says it is suffering a “migration crisis” and seeks to suspend asylum applications to those entering the Mediterranean island illegally.

The Republic of 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.

It accuses Turkey of orchestrating the crisis by allowing irregular migrants to cross over from the breakaway north.

Cyprus has been divided since Turkish mainland troops invaded the north in 1974 after a Greek Cypriot coup engineered by the ruling junta in Athens to unite the island with Greece.

Migrant flows recorded in Cyprus in 2021 are 38 percent higher than for all of last year.

Nicosia says the percentage of asylum seekers exceeds four percent of the population when it does not exceed one per cent in the rest of the EU front-line countries.

Cyprus has also urged for “EU solidarity” for the immediate relocation of asylum seekers to other member states and the repatriation of asylum seekers to their countries of origin.

During his visit, the Pope will hold an open-air mass at a stadium in the capital Nicosia on 3 December.

Later that same day, Pope Francis will meet refugees and asylum seekers in Nicosia. An Ecumenical prayer will follow at the Catholic Church of the Holy Cross.