Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides met EU officials in Brussels on Thursday to discuss ways of easing the pressure on the country from the increased flow of migrants, telling the press later that Cyprus was experiencing ‘alarming trends’.
The talks were of a technical nature and follow on from the visit to Cyprus of EU Migration Affairs Commission Demetris Avramopoulos to Cyprus.
“You are probably all aware of the reports that take stock of and I quote “the significant decrease of arrivals”, “the end of the migratory crisis” or “number of arrivals to the EU back to pre-crisis level” etc”, the Minister told the press.
“According to the latest annual report of EASO for 2018, this is true only for half the Member States,” he noted.
“Regrettably, Cyprus has been one of the front-line Member States, receiving significantly disproportionate applications, not only in 2018, but also in 2017 and 2016”, he said.
“The first six months of 2019 also demonstrated very alarming trends, and there is no indication at this state that there will be a decrease in the number of asylum applications.
“Cyprus has been faced with severe migratory pressures, not just in the past months, but in the past years. The statistical data are beyond alarming: Over 50% increase in 2017 in comparison to 2016, and a further 65% increase of arrivals in 2018. The data for 2019 cause reason for further concern: Cyprus received an average of over 1,000 persons for each of the first three months, while arrivals through the occupied area from January until May are over 3,000. The improvement of the weather conditions during summer, will certainly contribute to a further increase of arrivals by boats.”
“One of the main reasons for this influx and the immense migratory pressures Cyprus has been faced with, results from migratory flows coming from or via Turkey,” he explained and stressed that “despite our sincere efforts, Turkey refuses to cooperate with the authorities of the Republic, which has led to an exceptional situation for Cyprus.”
“Again, the numbers are self-evident: Between 2015 and May 2019, over 8,000 persons have arrived to Cyprus either by boat or through the occupied areas. The newest trend that is even more alarming, is the arrival of third country nationals who fly directly from Turkey to the occupied airport of Tymbou, and then enter the Government controlled areas on foot.”
“According to the information we have acquired, which is confirmed by the Frontex reports, a number of nationalities enjoy a visa-free regime in Turkey, thus, allowing them to travel from and to Turkey and the occupied areas without restrictions. Among those nationalities, are Syrians and Iranians. Other nationalities, such as citizens of Cameroon, can travel to Turkey with a so-call pro-visa, which enables them to enter Turkey with sub-standard procedures. From Turkey, they fly directly to the occupied areas, and then cross to the areas controlled by the Republic. We have already noticed a significant raise in applications by citizens of Cameroon,” he explained.
“Apart from our national concerns, there is a major European component. The essential need to be consistent in our policy, towards our third country partners. Turkey has received almost €4.5 billion to assist Europe in its efforts to tackle the migratory crisis. I believe that the data I have presented you with, makes it clear, that Turkey is not acting in line with its commitments,” the minister warned.
Furthermore the minister explained that, “around 25% of our new arrivals are Syrians. Note that these people are additional influx to the over 15.000 persons we have already given protection to. Due to their origin, Syrians cannot be returned to their country of origin, a situation that has led to major difficulties in the social absorption and inclusion, given the size and particularities of Cyprus.”
“Despite our repeated pleas, Cyprus has not yet benefited from a relocation scheme, which would be the only way to effectively alleviate the disproportionate pressure faced, given the large number of persons receiving protection. The way to alleviate disproportionate migratory pressure is the creation of a mechanism that is based on the principle of fair responsibility sharing and solidarity, in terms of a solid, sustainable, predictable framework. Europe ought to apply a truly holistic and comprehensive approach on migration. And this is why the only way forward, is to collectively work towards the construction of a fair, effective and sustainable common European asylum system.”
Called to comment on the increase of flows, the relevant spokesperson of the European Commission, told the Press during the daily midday briefing the following: “the Commission has been following the situation in Cyprus very closely. Following-up on the visit of Commissioner Avramopoulos in March, Commission experts have been on the ground to assess potential needs arising from an increase in irregular arrivals. As always, the Commission and the EU Agencies stand ready to provide all the necessary support.”
(Cyprus News Agency)