The head of the European Union’s Frontex border agency said the repatriation of migrants is Cyprus’ “most urgent need”, and his agency is ready to facilitate flights to return rejected asylum seekers home.
Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said after talks Wednesday with Interior Minister Nicos Nouris the island faces an “extraordinary challenge” that requires “extraordinary support” from Frontex amid increased migrant arrivals that the government says has stretched its ability to cope.
Leggeri said Frontex could bring in consular officials from foreign countries to confirm the identity of migrants and obtain permission to repatriate them.
He said the agency could also organise flights directly from Cyprus or with the assistance of other EU members.
“I realised, even more, the challenge that Cyprus is facing,” Leggeri said.
Nouris repeated that most asylum-seekers reaching the island are channelled through Turkey to the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.
According to Frontex estimates, the number of migrants and asylum seekers that arrived in Cyprus in January 2022 grew.
In the first month of 2022, there were 850 detections, 48% higher than last year.
The most represented nationalities were from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Congo-Kinshasa), Syria and Nigeria.
Regarding the situation on the Eastern Mediterranean route in general (mainly Greece – Turkey border), Frontex found no significant changes.
The number of detections rose 28% to 1163 compared to January 2021, when the number of detections was 911, 303 were at Greece’s external borders.
Overall, the number of illegal border crossings at the EU’s external borders in January reached 13,160, 78% more than in January 2021 and 23% more than in 2020.