Interior Minister Nicos Nouris has fired back at criticism from presidential candidate Andreas Mavroyiannis over the government laying barbed wire across the buffer zone to prevent illegal migrants.
On Friday, Mavroyiannis, backed by main opposition AKEL, lashed out against the presence of barbed wire along the buffer zone, dubbing it a violation of international laws and a threat to the peace process.
He tweeted: “There is no room for barbed wire in our country.
“We cannot violate international laws by placing obstacles in the way of people seeking political asylum, while simultaneously increasing the risk to their physical integrity.”
He further argued that placing barbed wire fences would not contribute to solving the problem of illegal migration from the north but would only enhance it.
“Instead, they add to the problem.
“In the Cyprus of tomorrow, there is no place for barbed wire, blockades, buffer zones and inhumane practices,” Mavroyiannis argued.
He said the barbed wire wall could become an obstacle in the struggle to reunite the island following the 1974 invasion.
“It took a whole 29 years for us to succeed in achieving breaches in the barbed wire set up after the invasion, and today we find ourselves once more faced with barbed wire; this time, it has not been installed by the Turkish army,” said Mavroyiannis.
He criticised authorities for cutting off access to agriculture plots in the UN-controlled buffer zone owned by Greek Cypriots.
Replying to Mavroyiannis, Nouris issued a statement Monday:
“It is truly regrettable for the veteran negotiator and presidential candidate to express his disapproval regarding the effort to prevent illegal entry into the Republic.”
The Interior Minister wondered if Mavroyiannis thought there was a need to prevent the illegal entry of migrants into the Republic.
“Barbed wire fences do not prevent the reunification of our people,” said Nouris.
“Does he really believe what he says in his post that the installation of barbed wire creates a problem in the effort to reunite our people?
“If he does, then he automatically equates simple barbed wire with the real reason for division, which is none other than the 40,000 Turkish occupation troops.
“Since he does not agree with the deterrent method, what would his solution be if he indeed acknowledges that there is an issue with illegal migration.”
Nouris also criticised Mavroyiannis for not criticising the breakaway north, which he said is responsible “for turning illegal migration into a money-making industry”.
He argued the occupation regime “has invited to the occupied territories more than 108,000 supposed ‘students’ who, after they economically drain, are pushed to the free areas, causing security problems, altering the demography, and burdening the Greek Cypriot taxpayers and the European Union”.
The European Commission and the United Nations have expressed concern over the placed barbed wire barriers along the buffer zone.