Cyprus: a new way for migrants to reach Europe News -

Top News

Increasing numbers of migrants are trying to reach the EU by crossing the border from Turkey to Cyprus. In two years, the number of asylum applications in Cyprus doubled more than threefold, rising from 730 at the beginning of 2017 to more than 3,000 at the beginning of 2019.

Mustafa, a 26-hour refugee hiding in a ferry coming from Turkey to Cyprus, is among those who are optimistic about his future on the island. "Once I leave the camp, I will find work and rebuild my life," he told AFP.

Although the number of refugees and migrants to Cyprus is low compared to the number of refugees in Italy or Greece, the island now has the highest rate of immigrant arrivals in any European Union country for its population. According to the European Statistical Office, Eurostat, it is eight times higher than in France. This does not include refugees or migrants living on the northern, separatist side of Cyprus administered by Turkey, which has been divided from the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus since 1974.

"Cyprus was not a preferred destination for refugees, it is an island far from Europe," said Zenonas Tiziaraas, a researcher at the Prio Center for Research. "But the situation has changed and the island has become their only choice: the route of migration to the EU through Greece has been closed, Syria's neighbors have fallen a lot, like Turkey and Lebanon, so suddenly Cyprus is very close to the Syrians. "

Cyprus is more than 100 kilometers from Lebanon and 80 kilometers from Turkey, encouraging smugglers to suggest such methods to Syrians like Omar who always say "Death at sea is better than death in Syria." Refugees from Syrian nationality make up the largest number of refugees who have arrived in Cyprus, according to Eurostat.

The Syrian refugee Omar, 33, was living in a refugee camp in Lebanon, and when he managed to manage a thousand dollars he decided to go to Cyprus. "The price was very reasonable, and the rubber boat we used was not more than three meters long," he told AFP.

Omar says he survived the drowning alone after staying in the sea for three days holding a rubber wheel before being rescued by a cargo ship passing by. The seven companions who were with him on the boat died in drowning.

Crowded reception centers

Immigrants and refugees are unable to provide the necessary services as their numbers increase dramatically and it takes between six months and a year to get a work permit in Cyprus for immigrants, an official said on condition of anonymity. "We used to receive dozens of refugees every year, but now we are dealing with the thousands every three months," said Elisabeth Cassines, In addition to the Syrians, "we are beginning to see immigrants coming from West Africa."

In 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) criticized the living conditions of the "reception and residence center" south of Nicosia, which is run by the Cyprus asylum service. However, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the Ministry of Interior had "significantly improved" camp conditions.

Move across the peninsula

According to UNHCR, about half of the migrants arrive on the island in the Turkish-administered north, where there is no effective asylum system. The vast majority of migrants land at Ergan airport, the only part of the northern part, where it is easy to cross the border.

Migrants then take the good sneak route of infiltrating through the divided buffer zone, or "Green Line". According to the Cypriot Interior Ministry, the number of people crossing the line irregularly has increased in recent years. In 2019, 3,000 refugees crossed the Green Line to seek asylum in the south, compared to only 138 people in 2017.

"The Turkish occupation of the north means that we will be unable to control the movement of migration It is a real dilemma He also considered the peaceful island of Cyprus in a disaster-ridden area, and the existence of a dividing line between the two parts of the island is not treated as an actual border, But "increase the problem of immigration is a shame."

"Turkey is part of the problem, but we are counting on EU help," he said.

"When the refugees find that they have made the trip and it is very difficult for them to reach the heart of the European continent, they are very disappointed," Caritas said.

The internationally recognized Cypriot authorities have repeatedly accused the Northern Cypriot authorities of not trying to stop this influx of migrants into the territory under their control.

Benjamin Batka / Alaa Jumah Immigrant News

Sign up for our free – – – and receive our best articles in your inbox.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Powered by Blogger.