Turkey blamed for enabling illegal migration

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Turkey is behind mass irregular migration to Cyprus, said Interior Minister Nicos Nouris during a review of his term in office.

Nouris said that despite European efforts, there was no response on behalf of Turkey.

He said that in the last five years, Cyprus had become the EU state with the largest number of asylum seekers.

During that time, 63,303 applications were submitted, and those receiving protection status constituted 6% of the population of the Republic.

He said that drastic corrective measures were taken to tackle the problem, including bilateral agreements with third countries, an increase in judges of the Administrative Court of International Protection, the reform of the Refugee Law and the establishment of a Return Office under the ministry.

In the first year of its operation, this office achieved the largest number of returns in the EU, with 7,600 last year.

There was also €67.5 mln EU financing for the construction of a new Reception Centre and the Pre-Departure Centre and €10 mln financial from Switzerland for the construction of the new buildings of the Asylum Service.

Nouris said more than 78,000 Ukrainian refugees arrived in Cyprus after the Russian invasion, of whom 16,000 are still on the island.

He said that migrant influxes across the Green Line from the Turkish-occupied north still constitute a huge issue.

“In the last 18 months, Turkey systematically changed the demographics of migrants in Cyprus; most migrants are now from sub-Saharan African countries.”

Nicosia has called for more EU investments in the countries of origin and not only in the host countries, adding that if jobs and decent living conditions are created in sub-Saharan Africa, many would-be migrants will also choose to stay.

Nouris said the Turkish Cypriots should understand that allowing thousands of illegal migrants to remain in the north “clearly does not help the possibility of a solution to the Cyprus problem”.