Cyprus said on Wednesday it would seek to suspend asylum applications to cope with an influx of irregular migrants entering the eastern Mediterranean island blamed on Turkey.
The data showed that Cyprus, a member of the European Union, was facing “demographic change” and “acute socio-economic effects” as a result of the migrant crisis, said government spokesman Marios Pelekanos.
“A request will be submitted to the European Commission to take action in favor of the Republic of Cyprus, including granting the right to suspend asylum applications by people entering the country illegally,” he told reporters.
The Republic of Cyprus says it has the highest number of asylum applications for the first time among the 27 EU members compared to its population of around one million.
She accuses Turkey of orchestrating the crisis by allowing irregular migrants to cross through the separatist Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).
Cyprus has been divided since Turkish continental troops invaded the north in 1974, after a Greek Cypriot coup created by the ruling junta in Athens tried to unite the island with Greece.
The 180-kilometer (112-mile) Green Line has separated the island from east to west ever since, separating the Republic of Cyprus, the easternmost member of the European Union, from the self-proclaimed TRNC, recognized only by Ankara.
The influx of migrants registered in Cyprus in 2021 was 38 per cent higher than for the whole of last year, Pelekanos said.
In the first 10 months of the year, 10,868 irregular migrants arrived in Cyprus, 9,270 who had illegally crossed the island’s dividing line in a “policy set and conscious by Turkey,” he said.
Current flows have added to the more than 33,000 people already residing illegally in the republic, a government spokesman added.
“The percentage of asylum seekers exceeds four percent of the population, while in the rest of the EU first-line countries it does not exceed one percent,” Pelekanos said.
His remarks came after ministers agreed on a series of measures to address the rise in irregular migration at an emergency meeting chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades.
Nicosia expected “EU solidarity for the immediate relocation of asylum seekers to other member states, but also for the repatriation of asylum seekers to their countries of origin,” Pelekanos said.
According to the government, 15,000 people have been denied asylum applications but cannot be deported because there is no coherent EU policy or agreement with their countries of origin to repatriate them.
Pelekanos said Cyprus was calling on the European Commission to take urgent measures to deal with a “deteriorating situation”.
Also Wednesday, Cypriot police said a boat carrying 61 migrants thought to be from Syria and Lebanon, including 28 children, was escorted to Paphos, on the east coast of the island.
To be part of the group »AOL“just click: Join Group and your request will be approved immediately.