Cyprus can no longer bear the costs of housing refugees, says Interior Minister Nikos Nouris. In recent months, the number of migrants in the country has increased sharply.
In view of the high number of migrants, the small island republic of Cyprus has asked the other EU member states for help. “The problem is extremely worrying,” Cypriot Interior Minister Nikos Nouris said on state television on Thursday. He will inform the EU Commission in detail in a letter in the coming days.
Most of the migrants – the majority of them Africans – come from Turkey. Many of them fly from Istanbul or Ankara first to the north of the island occupied by Turkey. They will then be smuggled to the south of the Republic of Cyprus, where they can apply for asylum in accordance with EU laws, the minister said.
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided into a larger Greek Cypriot part in the south and a Turkish Cypriot part in the north. Only Turkey recognizes Northern Cyprus as a state. Turkey maintains thousands of troops in the north.
So far this year, almost 5000 people have arrived on this route in the south of Cyprus. For comparison: in the whole of the previous year, 13,500 migrants crossed the dividing line between the north and south of the island. “The Republic (Cyprus) can no longer bear the costs of accommodation,” the Interior Minister continued. In terms of the number of inhabitants, Cyprus has the most asylum applications of all EU countries.
In February, the head of the EU border protection agency Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, said after a visit to a refugee camp that Cyprus was faced with an “extraordinary challenge”. The country therefore also needs extraordinary support. At the beginning of February, 36 people were injured in riots in a migrant camp near the capital Nicosia.
Since a Greek coup and a Turkish military intervention in 1974, Cyprus has been divided into a larger Greek Cypriot part in the south and a smaller Turkish Cypriot part in the north. Northern Cyprus is recognized as a state only by Turkey. The EU accepted all of Cyprus as a member in 2004. However, EU law and regulations – as long as there is no solution – only apply in the south.