Cyprus leads the European Union in progressing with migrant returns and readmissions, senior officials in Brussels have said.
Internal Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told the Cyprus News Agency that Turkey needs to fulfil its part of the EU-Turkey agreement, and contacts are ongoing with migrant countries of origin such as Pakistan.
Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said Nicosia faced increased pressures and that Turkey needs to respond to the EU’s assistance with meaningful gestures regarding the situation in Cyprus and its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.
“When it comes to Cyprus, we are very well aware of the disproportionate pressure that Cyprus, one of our smallest member states, has to endure as a result of the specificities of the Green Line reality.
“Cyprus is doing a great job on returns.
“I think it is now emerging as the European champion of returns, that is a good thing, and they have to keep it up”.
Johansson pointed out that “the East Med is also a route of great concern”.
She said the EU has contributed by relocating more than 5000 mainly unaccompanied minors, mainly from Greece.
“Of course, we also need to make sure that Turkey fulfils their part of the EU – Turkey statement, where we have more to ask for.
“Specifically on Cyprus, I must say that Cyprus is progressing a lot.
“To use one example, they are now doing pretty well when it comes to return and readmission, thanks to very close cooperation with the Commission…this is also extremely important in countering new arrivals”.
Johansson recently visited Pakistan and pointed out that one of the reasons for her visit was the large number of Pakistanis crossing the Green Line.
Schinas said that the Commission is closely monitoring the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Cyprus ranks first among EU nations in the number of migrants it repatriates relative to its population of just over a million people, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said last week.
Nearly 7,000 migrants have been sent back to their home countries from Cyprus this year, accounting for 70% of those who entered the country illegally.
Last year, Cyprus repatriated 17% of the migrants who arrived without authorisation.
Asylum applications rose to 18,345 between January and October.
The number of people with pending asylum claims or already granted a more limited protection status together is equal to more than 6% of Cyprus’ population.
Nouris said some 95% of all asylum-seekers enter from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and cross the United Nations-controlled buffer zone to apply in the Republic.
The government is erecting a fence and installing high-tech surveillance equipment along stretches of the 180-kilometre Green Line.
Nicosia has signed agreements with countries including India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Vietnam to enable so many repatriations.
Migrant returns are facilitated through a newly established office that coordinates between different state ministries and agencies, including the Asylum Service, police and the European border agency Frontex.
Nouris said he’s hopeful the EU network will help discourage both migrants and people smugglers from trying to enter the country illegally.