Cyprus is launching an information campaign to counter a spike in irregular migration, authorities said, saying they were struggling with the highest inflows in the European Union.
The island has had the highest number of new asylum applications in proportion to its population for the past six years.
Eurostat data for 2022 showed it at double that of second-placed Austria.
Cyprus is not a member of the EU’s visa-free Schengen Area, meaning an irregular migrant could be stranded there.
“Traffickers wrongly portray Cyprus as an interim stop for an onward journey to Europe, ignoring the fact that it’s an island,” said Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou.
A social media campaign entitled “Let’s Talk Truth About Cyprus”, directed primarily at sub-Saharan African countries, says 96% of asylum applications are rejected, and rejected applicants face a five-year EU entry ban.
The ceasefire line is proving particularly porous, with most irregular migrants arriving from the Turkish-occupied north.
Cypriot officials say 95% of arrivals use the ceasefire line route.
Many asylum seekers arrive on the island on student visas to privately-run universities in the north, then slip through the ceasefire line, which is not heavily guarded.
Ioannou said authorities had recently recruited additional guards and deployed extra resources to process asylum applications.
Authorities plan to establish a migration ministry for better administration of the issue, he said.
Nicosia has also ramped up its migrant returns policy, sending back double the number of asylum seekers than it did last year.
It is also getting help with EU relocation schemes. (source Reuters)