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17 July, 2024
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Cyprus faces obstacles in efforts to repatriate Syrian refugees

Political, legal, and humanitarian challenges complicate Nicosia's plans to designate ''safe'' areas in Syria


According to a report by Pavlos Xanthoulis in Kathimerini's Sunday printed edition, Nicosia's efforts to designate certain areas of Syria as "safe" for the purpose of facilitating the return of Syrian refugees have encountered significant political, legal, and humanitarian obstacles. The European Union, along with influential member states, deems any agreement with the non-recognized Assad government impractical due to the political situation and ongoing human rights violations. Recent EU Council decisions extending sanctions against the Assad regime underscore this stance. These measures, effective until June 2025, effectively preclude bilateral agreements for refugee repatriation.

Moreover, the EU's current policy, extending sanctions to numerous entities and individuals in Syria, prevents any potential reconciliation with the Assad regime. The lack of recognition of the Syrian government by the EU complicates the possibility of repatriation agreements, raising concerns about refugees' safety and human rights violations.

The legal dimension of the issue also poses challenges. The European Court of Justice's Advocate General emphasized that designating a country as "safe" must apply uniformly to its entire territory. This presents a legal hurdle for Nicosia's aspiration to deem specific Syrian regions as safe for refugee return.

In light of these political, legal, and humanitarian considerations, Cyprus' option to independently designate safe areas in Syria faces practical challenges. While technically feasible until 2026, such action would require recognition of the Assad regime, contrary to EU consensus. The potential ramifications of this move, including legitimizing unrecognized regimes, are deemed untenable by EU standards.

While Cyprus may be concerned about increased refugee flows, pursuing unilateral agreements with the Assad regime is unlikely. However, depending on the outcome of the European elections, far-right factions may seek policy changes regarding Syria within the EU. Yet, given the current circumstances, such endeavors are perceived as unviable.

[This is an excerpt from Pavlos Xanthoulis' article published Sunday's Kathimerini]

Cyprus  |  migration  |  Syria

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