The Republic of Cyprus says a barbwire fence currently being set up along a strip adjacent to the UN buffer zone should not be seen as a border between north and south but a way to hold back undocumented migrants.
Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris confirmed on Monday that a part of a seven-mile barbed wire fence had been installed in Astromeritis, Nicosia district, along a strip adjacent to the UN buffer zone.
Local media reported that crews began installing the barbed wire last Tuesday along the outer boundary of the UN buffer zone to the south, with plans of additional fence being added this week through Peristerona and Akaki, east of Astromeritis.
The ministries of Justice and Defence along with other state agencies have been putting their heads together for some time to come up with plans to seal the decades-old, east-to-west, 110-mile-long corridor’s weak points.
Local representatives have called on the government to guarantee that farmers will have unrestricted access to fields and sheds within the buffer zone
But the Republic of Cyprus has also been criticized over pushback policies involving undocumented travelers arriving by sea, including Syrian refugees. Interior ministry officials have denied reports that law enforcement agents block refugees from having access to shore where they could potentially fie for asylum, with Nouris saying the state was sending back “economic migrants.”
The minister, who spoke on state radio on Monday morning, also reiterated the government’s position that the Republic of Cyprus had no intention to abandon local communities along the buffer zone, adding that officials were in contact with local representatives to move the barbwire installation forward.
“We are in contact with local communities to ensure that farmers continue to have access to fields in the area,” Nouris said.
Local representatives in the area have called on the government to guarantee that farmers will have unrestricted access to fields and sheds within the buffer zone.
“If this effort brings negative results, then we will definitely see a desertion in the buffer zone areas,” said Astromeritis community leader Aris Constantinou.
But Constantinou also criticized new plans for a future highway section that has been rerouted to pass south of the area, arguing initial plans to have the motorway pass along the northern edges of the communities could serve as further deterrent for illegal migration.
According to the interior minister, plans along with detailed maps had been in the works for months, with Nouris adding that the European Commission and foreign dignitaries in Cyprus have been in the loop over the whole situation.
Nouris also said he expected some pundits may rush to point out that the Republic of Cyprus in the south was sealing a border it did not recognize with the north, saying that was not the case.
“It doesn’t mean in any way that we accept occupation as a done-deal,” the minister clarified.