Cyprus has received almost 3,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war since Russia invaded last month, said the Interior Ministry Wednesday, fending off criticism that authorities responded inadequately to the humanitarian crisis.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Interior Ministry said a total of 2,935 Ukrainians had fled to Cyprus without problematic red tape, rejecting reports that they were experiencing difficulties with entry documentation.
The Interior Ministry said: “Even persons whose passports were expired or presented authorities only with an identity card were allowed to enter”.
The ministry’s announcement comes as a response to a report in Politis daily suggesting the government had not formulated a policy for Ukrainian refugees and was “watching developments with confusion”.
According to Politis, Cyprus has not implemented the European directive and was not accepting Ukrainians without biometric passports.
The ministry refuted this and argued Cyprus was among the first EU member states to activate a plan for welcoming refugees from Ukraine.
“For us, as a people who know first-hand what war and refugees mean, our contribution to the people of Ukraine must be taken as a given.
“The government’s policy for managing this humanitarian crisis is, for those with a clear perspective, unambiguous and effective,” the ministry said.
Turkish troops invaded divided Cyprus in 1974 in response to a Greek army engineered coup which displaced 200,000 Cypriots.
Nicosia says it has the EU’s highest proportion of asylum seekers per population.
Of the 2,935 arrivals, the ministry said, 71 had requested temporary protection, and 19 had sought asylum.
There are over 18,000 Russians and more than 4,600 Ukrainians living on the island, according to government statistics.
The European Union triggered a never-before-used directive to grant temporary protection for Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, more than two million Ukrainians have fled since Russia’s invasion began 24 February.
Many of these exiled people have arrived in EU countries, with Poland registering over 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees.
Ukrainian refugees are given residence permits to stay inside the bloc for at least one year, which is automatically extended for another year. Member states can decide to prolong the exceptional measure by 12 more months if the war continues.