Cyprus has transferred 76 applicants for international protection, originally from Syria and Afghanistan to France under a European Union voluntary relocation pilot program, the Interior Ministry said.
It said the transfer took place Thursday as part of the cooperation with France, in the first of a series of transfers expected to occur in the coming months under the EU’s ‘burden sharing’ scheme.
The operation involved the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the French authorities.
“The relocation of immigrants began three months ago to other member states, such as Germany, Bulgaria, and Romania, with the total number, relocated reaching 210, including applicants for international protection to France,” said an Interior Ministry statement.
It said the program is designed to support “frontline member states that have increased migration challenges, through assistance” from EU partners.
“France’s acceptance of the transfer of the first 76 applicants from Cyprus comes as practical support and a gesture of solidarity,” said the ministry.
“Cyprus is the first country in applications for international protection in the EU, in proportion to population,” it added.
Nicosia said the relocations are funded by the EU Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund.
Cyprus has long argued that it is on the frontline of the bloc’s irregular migration flows through the Mediterranean.
The government claims asylum-seekers comprise an EU high of 5% of the island’s 915,000 people in the Republic – a record figure across the EU.
On average, an estimated 1500 asylum applications are received every month.
Earlier this month, five EU Mediterranean states, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain, criticised fellow members for not accepting asylum-seekers under a voluntary relocation initiative.