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12° Nicosia,
18 May, 2022
 
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Nouris: 'No magic solution' to the migration crisis in Cyprus

800-1000 rejections of asylum applications per month

Source: CNA

Cyprus Minister of the Interior, Nicos Nouris, has said that there are no magic solutions or recipes to address the issue of migration and that “we have no other choice than to increase surveillance at the Green Line, using any means required”, describing the situation at “Pournara” reception center as very difficult. Moreover, in an interview with CNA he noted that Cyprus has taken the biggest step from all European countries by putting its migration policy on the right track.

“We are issuing 800-1000 decisions each month by which asylum applications are rejected because the examination of these applications has accelerated, something which no other country has succeeded. This was made possible as of January 1st," Nouris told CNA.

At the same time, Nouris said that “this has created a new problem for the Republic of Cyprus as currently 7 thousand applications are pending before the International Protection Administrative Court, which fails to respond to the speed by which the Interior Ministry’s Asylum has been operating.”

Nouris also said that another problem is that once applications are rejected by a final judgment by the court then applicants cannot be sent back to their countries of origin.

Therefore, this is a complex issue and we need to work in order to improve procedures at the court and to be able to see these people back where they came from, and at the same time limit migration flows from the Green Line, he added.

Asked about the arrivals of migrants this year in Cyprus, the Interior Minister said that for the fifth consecutive year Cyprus is the first among the EU countries, as it receives the biggest number of illegal migrants in proportion to its population.

As he noted, by the end of November, the period until which data is available, the Asylum Service had received 12,200 new asylum applications. He added that 85% of these people arrived in Cyprus` occupied areas, from where they crossed the Green Line, to arrive into the government-controlled areas. Nouris noted that immigrants, guided by Ankara, arrive in the Turkish-occupied areas of the island on a daily basis.

He said that President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, has sent a letter to the President of the European Commission asking for Cyprus to be given the potential of suspending the reception of asylum applications for a period of time, adding that currently, the Asylum Service has before it 17 thousand applications to examine.

Asked about the other requests that Cyprus has put forward to the EU, in coordination with other member states that also receive large migratory flows, Nouris said that “we are asking them to tangibly show solidarity so that a number of immigrants are resettled to other countries, to alleviate the burden of Cyprus, as 4.4% of the country’s population are immigrants.”

Moreover, he said that as a front-line country, Cyprus has undertaken the initiative along with other front-line member states – Greece, Spain, Italy and Malta – to ask for three things, “despite the fact that we wholeheartedly support that there needs to be a conclusion as regards the common asylum framework and a common migration policy.”

The first thing that we have asked for is the effective management of the EU external borders including the Green Line, which is not an external border of the Republic of Cyprus but a place from where we receive 85% of the illegal immigrants, he said.

He noted that the second issue is that the EU must undertake the initiative and conclude bilateral agreements with third countries, “so that we are able to return third-country citizens back to safe countries.”

Nouris said that the third issue is that organizations that are connected to the EU – FRONTEX and EASO – must undertake a more active role to help the return of immigrants to their countries of origin.

The Minister stressed that Cyprus is suffering immensely from the current situation and that there are too many immigrants who are not entitled to remain in the Republic, but cannot be sent back where they came from.

He noted that there is reluctance by many countries – mainly in Asia and in sub-Saharan Africa - to accept their citizens, stressing that the EU must help in an effective way and rapidly to address the three issues he has mentioned.

He said that as regards the EU the reason for which there is no agreement is clearly because there is no willingness by a large number of European countries to accept the resettling of immigrants, for example from Cyprus to other European countries.

“We began with the countries of Central Europe, the Visegrád Group – Hungary – Poland, Slovakia, etc – but voices expressing reluctancy to accept immigrants are increasing to other countries as well,” he noted.

He referred to the events at the borders of Lithuania and Belarus, noting that he has explained to his EU counterparts that what is happening today in Lithuania has been happening in Cyprus for five years now and that Cyprus is asking for the implementation of the same measures at the Green Line.

Asked about the erection of a fence and the installation of an electronic surveillance system at the Green Line, Nouris said there is a difference from the other countries as this is not a border.

“Therefore we are particularly careful with what we are doing. Nevertheless, we have no other choice than to increase surveillance at the Green Line by any means we can, and we have asked for help from the EU because very simply there are no magic solutions and recipes,” he added.

Nouris said that the system which Cyprus has purchased from Israel will be gradually installed at the Green Line during the next 1-3 years, noting however that these are systems of surveillance and not prevention.

Nouris also noted that vaccination of immigrants staying in “Pournara” began in September, however as 60-100 people arrive each day through the Green Line the situation worsens.

Asked about the “Pournara” reception center, Nouris said that the situation there is very difficult, due to overcrowding.

He noted that due to the fact that a number of people living there were found positive for COVID-19, 585 people who were their contacts were transferred to another center, “Limnes”.

Nouris also noted that vaccination of immigrants staying in “Pournara” began in September, however as 60-100 people arrive each day through the Green Line the situation worsens.

“Therefore we are currently facing a serious public health problem as the center is overcrowded, we are facing infrastructure problems, which we are addressing with great difficulty,” he added.

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