More needs to be done in dealing with the migrant crisis, with cooperation and coordination, President Nikos Christodoulides told an international conference in Rome.
He said for the last six years, Cyprus has continuously been the EU member state with the largest number of asylum seekers in proportion to its population.
Mediterranean member states of the EU, countries in the Middle East and Africa, European institutions, the UN and other international organisations participated in Sunday’s International Conference on Migration and Development.
According to a written statement by the Presidential Palace, Christodoulides said: “Our countries are facing, especially in recent years, the enormous and growing challenge of migration flows, which has an impact on various sectors, such as the economy”.
“It is clear that we need to do more in order to deal with the migration crisis, and it must be done in cooperation and coordination.
Christodoulides said that immigration is one of the most important issues Cyprus has to deal with.
“The percentage of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus exceeds 55,000 people, a figure corresponding to 6% of the country’s population.”
He added that in the last three years, increasing irregular arrivals by sea and land through the ceasefire line was “alarming”.
“More than 98% of irregular arrivals were through the occupied areas of the Republic, where the Government cannot exercise control.”
“Immigration and all issues stemming from these intense migration pressures are a very serious issue for Cyprus.”
He said the Government was using significant resources with the support of the EU in its effort to manage the situation.
He pointed out that states were called upon to effectively manage irregular migration flows while at the same time ensuring access to international protection for those who really need it.
“The aim must be primarily to address the root causes of irregular migration.”
President Christodoulides said it was necessary to apply a comprehensive and unified approach to dealing with this issue, which includes close and sincere cooperation between the affected countries and regional and international organisations.
“Cyprus advocates for assisting countries that have proven reliable partners, such as Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, that have shouldered a huge burden regarding the migration issue.
“These countries should be given the means to respond to the challenges.”
He argued that Egypt made great efforts to prevent irregular migration to the EU and hosts an “enormous number of refugees”.
“And Lebanon has, for the longest time, hosted the largest number of Syrian refugees compared to the country’s population, despite its political and economic crisis.”