Cyprus Interior Minister Nicos Nouris has asked for the EU`s support in order for the country to manage the excessive migratory flows in the Republic, stressing that eleven quarantine areas are operating at maximum capacity in the immigration reception centres.
Three out of four illegal immigrants enter the areas under the control of the Republic through the Green Line, the UN-controlled buffer zone, having arrived from Turkey to the Turkish occupied territories of Cyprus, Nouris said addressing an online meeting of the Monitoring Committees of EU Home Affairs Funds for 2014 – 2020.
It is therefore instrumental for our country to implement measures to prevent the illegal entry from the buffer zone without suggesting in any way whatsoever that these are our land borders, he noted.
“We seek from the EU to recognise such a capability on our part without granting Turkey any kind of political argument,” he added.
Nouris said that Cyprus seeks from its European family to acknowledge “our country’s particularities and the constant pressure we are under from Turkey, an occupying power, which systematically sends migrant flows through the occupied areas to the areas under the control of the Republic.”
The Interior Minister said that in 2019 Cyprus received approximately 17,000 asylum applications which is equal to an increase of over 500% compared with 2015.
“Today asylum applications together with the people to whom an international protection status has been granted in our country add up to over 35,000 people, or 3.8% of the population,” he pointed out.
The huge migrant flows arriving in our island are excessively greater in proportion to its size, he said, adding that this also exceeds the Republic’s capabilities preventing the appropriate management and effective implementation of actions for the integration of third country nationals in the local society.
Nouris continued by saying that arrivals data for 2020 are misleading due to the pandemic, explaining that once flights started arriving at the illegal airport in Turkish occupied Tymbou, the arrival of immigrants from Africa, quite a few testing positive for Covid-19, has increased dramatically. This in turn has put undue pressure on immigrant reception centres, where “today we are operating 11 quarantine areas at maximum capacity.”
Among other things, Nouris also spoke of the importance of returns, pointing out that 1,250 voluntary returns of immigrants to their countries have taken place since the beginning of this year.
Referring to the problem of sham marriages, he said that following stricter legislation, that passed recently, 836 residency permits have been cancelled while another 1,200 cases are under investigation.
The Cypriot Interior Minister pointed out that the problem of illegal migration is not one affecting just Cyprus, adding that “it is an EU problem.” He expressed Cyprus’ position in favour of a new common asylum and migration policy.
On her part, Katerina Wolfova, Head of Unit at the EU Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs, said that the EU knows of the challenges and particularities faced by Cyprus.
We are here to enhance solidarity, she noted, adding that it is anticipated that an agreement will be reached on the new Pact on Migration and Asylum. It will depend on the political discussions and the compromises achieved, she added.
Referring to the financial support given to Cyprus, Wolfova said that the EU wishes to continue supporting Cyprus and the goal is to release further funding Cyprus has asked for in order to use it to manage migration challenges.
We stand ready to continue to cooperate in order to shape future national programmes for financial support and to discuss other possibilities of financial support for Cyprus, she concluded.