People fleeing war in Ukraine have been promised protection in Cyprus, but questions remained as both sides on the divided island rushed to declare their support before finalizing all the details.
Following a special cabinet committee meeting in the Republic of Cyprus on Thursday, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris vowed that Ukrainians on the island would get help without delay and called for the approval of measures for over 8000 Ukrainians.
But the measures to be put before the next Cabinet meeting were not fully clear, as roughly 2300 tourists from Ukraine were grouped separately from 6024 of their fellow citizens who arrived on the island after Russian troops invaded their country on February 24.
Greek Cypriot media said 6024 Ukrainians came to Cyprus after Russian troops invaded their country late last month, making them eligible for benefits in the European Union by way of Temporary Protection, a measure granted on March 4 to people fleeing Ukraine after the cutoff date.
Hundreds of other Ukrainians in the southern part of the island were reportedly running out of money and unable to benefit from EU “temporary protection” measures because they visited the island as tourists before the cutoff date.
But an application form provided no category for people to indicate a pre-February 24 arrival date while it asked whether applicants entered the Republic of Cyprus legally
“Absolutely no Ukrainian who is in Cyprus and in need of help will need to wait,” Nouris clarified.
But an application form published on the Asylum Service website provided no category for people to indicate a pre-February 24 arrival date.
The form asked Ukrainian citizens and others residing in Ukraine before February 24, as well as family dependants in those categories, to provide documents proving “legal residence” in Ukraine as well as indicate whether or not they entered Cyprus legally after the cutoff date.
Reports on the island said there were also Ukrainians who traveled to Cyprus’ northern part, which is not officially recognized by countries except Turkey, but it was not made fully clear whether people north of the UN buffer zone could still be eligible for the EU's Temporary Protection benefits.
Turkish Cypriot leader Ertsin Tatar said his administration was moving forward with procedures to make visas available to Ukrainians wishing to travel to the north.
“There have to be mutual provisions that can address your needs,” Tatar told a group of Ukrainian representatives this week.
The representatives told Tatar there was a large Russophone network in the north ready to assist war-fleeing Ukrainians.
“These people are victims of war. They were forced to flee their country. This is a human crisis. It is our duty to open our arms to these people,” Tatar said.
But like in the south, no decisions were officially made in the north, with the Turkish Cypriot leader vowing that his administration would “do everything that can be done.”
Nicosia has not yet clarified whether EU protections for people fleeing war in Ukraine would be extended in the northern part of Cyprus.