The funeral of nine Syrian refuges, whose bodies washed up on the northern shores of the island, was held in Lefka on Saturday, with their relatives living in the south crossing the checkpoints to pay their final respects.
The bodies were found in mid-May over the course of two days in the Turkish-held Karpas region, with Turkish Cypriot officials reportedly finding a wallet with some cash and a mobile phone on one of the bodies, and identity cards and passports also in the area.
The funeral was held in Lefka on Saturday, in the presence of Turkish Cypriot officials, who were also joined by relatives of the victims.
The relatives who are refugees living in the south received special permission to attend the funeral in the north
The relatives, who are refugees living in the south, reportedly received special permission to attend the funeral on the divided island.
In the south, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the death toll in Karpas was a concern for everyone.
“This incident shows the need for legal migration pathways in order to avoid the repetition of phenomena that put human lives in danger,” said Natasa Xenophontos-Koudouna, head of the IOM Office in the Republic of Cyprus.
Ten families to be resettled in Cyprus
Koudouna, who spoke with Cyprus News Agency, also said that ten Syrian refugee families from Lebanon and Jordan are expected to be resettled in Cyprus this year, according to an agreement between the Republic and IOM.
The official welcomed the government’s decision to proceed with the resettlement of refugees, saying it was in line with commitments undertaken by EU member states.
“This decision also enhances bilateral ties between Cyprus and neighboring countries,” Koudouna said.
But the head of IOM Cyprus also spoke out on the need to adopt a comprehensive approach in search of viable solutions for refugees and migrants.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration is working with the government in the Republic of Cyprus to facilitate the resettlement of 69 people from Lebanon and Jordan within 2018, according to Koudouna.
“We are talking about 10 families more or less and the goal is to bring them to Cyprus and integrate them into society” she added.
In May, there were 47 arrivals by sea, following 273 arrivals recorded last year in the areas under the control of the Republic of Cyprus.
Despite an apparent reduction in numbers, Koudouna pointed to arrivals of migrants and refugees via Turkey to the Republic of Cyprus through the northern part.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded the northern third of the island in response to a short-lived coup engineered by Athens.
The island remains divided between the Turkish Cypriot north, which is recognised only by Turkey, and the Greek Cypriot south, which is represented by the Republic of Cyprus, a member of the United Nations and the European Union.
Peace talks to reunite the island under a federal system are currently frozen, after failed attempts spanning half a century.