Interior Minister Nicos Nouris says he would be happy if the Republic of Cyprus could bring down irregular migration by following the example of Greece, a country facing EU criticism over ‘violent’ deportations, with the Cypriot official calling on fellow citizens to show their “love of country.”
Speaking on irregular migration flows to the Republic of Cyprus, Nouris urged European officials to view Turkey as “the source of the problem” before pointing the finger to a front-line EU member state.
The comments, made to reporters on Sunday after a memorial service, came just days after the EU’s top migration official called on Greece, another front-line member, to stop “violent" deportations of migrants or risk losing funds.
Athens has been blaming Turkish authorities of actively encouraging illegal departures towards Greece, with Greek Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi saying earlier that the EU needed to do more to ensure boats were not crossing over from Turkey.
But reports alleging Greek officials were using brutal methods have been piling up after Fabrice Leggeri, the former head of Frontex, resigned two months ago. This came about after an international consortium of journalists revealed a database from the EU’s border agency that showed it was involved in illegal pushbacks from Greece to Turkey.
'Local residents on this island, half of which is under occupation, have human rights too, and so Europe, yes, they must show more active support so that we can solve this problem'
Last week Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who emerged from a meeting with Greek government ministers, said “funding is linked to EU fundamental rights being correctly applied.”
"Protecting EU external border from illegal entry is an obligation. Violent and illegal deportations of migrants must stop, now," Johansson said.
Greek Cypriot authorities have also been accused of illegal pushbacks but Nouris once again denied the allegations.
“The Republic of Cyprus does not do that, it hasn’t done that, and I categorically deny this despite others making such statements,” the minister said.
Nouris went on to say that the government had no other choice but to reduce inflows from the UN buffer zone as well as maximize returns and deportations of those who do not have a right to stay.
European critics have been arguing that asylum seekers should not be lumped together with other irregular migrants, with reports saying customs officials in the south stopped allowing people to request asylum at checkpoints.
But Nouris argues that Turkey has been sending economic migrants to the southern part of the island and coached by human smugglers to seek asylum in order to alter demographics and put pressure on Greek Cypriots.
The Cypriot minister called on Europe to support Cyprus on the migration issue, saying Cypriot authorities were adhering to rules and regulations concerning human rights.
“Local residents of this island, half of which is under occupation, have human rights too, and so Europe, yes, it must show more active support so that we can solve this problem,” Nouris said.
The minister, who has been known for his tough stance on migration, said there were no “magic recipes and solutions” and called on his critics to show flexibility as the government was trying to put together a controversial special force to take over migration camps as well as patrol areas along the buffer zone.
Local residents and farmers in rural areas have also been speaking out against a government-built fence that would be patrolled by the private officers and also require people to key in a personal a code in order to move about in certain locations.
Nouris said the government has to “move more quickly on this” and added that “some procedures could be bypassed for national reasons but of course with adherence to the law.”
“I think it’s necessary to show much needed – and I will dare say it – love of country by everyone so that we can manage to complete this difficult task.”