Commissioner Margaritis Schinas on Sunday visited the Green Line in Athienou area and had the opportunity to see with his own eyes the situation with migrant influxes that Cyprus is faced with in the past months. A great number of migrants mostly from African countries arrive via Turkey to the occupied areas and from there they pass through to the Cyprus Republic.
Cyprus has repeatedly asked the EU`s assistance to deal with the flows. On Monday Schinas and Interior Minister Nicos Nouris will sign an MoU for operational assistance between the EU and the Cyprus government. The signing will take place at the Presidential Palace in the presence of President Nicos Anastasiades.
On Sunday Schinas and the Minister visited Athienou and in statements that followed the Commissioner noted that he always believed that one can better understand the migration crisis while being directly on the field and talking to the people who are affected. He said that he previously visited Moria camp in Greece and the Lithuanian border and today he is here at the Green Line and what he sees is shocking.
He noted that the Green Line is not an external border of the EU, while Cyprus, being a small member state, cannot deal with the issue of migration. Schinas said that the visit today sends a message that we need to act and we need to draft an action plan which must include the causes of the problem, the situation in the Turkish coastline and on the ground from where these people depart.
The Commissioner said that in March he will be visiting Turkey and he will discuss the matter. He noted that Cyprus needs to receive EU funding to deal with the influxes. Moreover, he emphasized the need for a strategy to repatriate those who do not have the right to be on EU soil.
He noted the importance of the MoU, adding that he remains optimistic it will be a new beginning in assisting the Republic of Cyprus and the local communities.
The Commissioner said once again that the EU cannot be a firefighter, putting out fires in crisis after a crisis, rather it needs to build a strong framework that will deal with the issue in a comprehensive and holistic way. He praised the efforts made by the French Presidency of the EU and asked Cyprus to have a leading role in the discussions to come.
Replying to a question, Schinas denied that the EU follows a double standard, adding that in Belarus there is an EU external border and a hybrid threat with 20-25,000 people being positioned to enter the EU. Cyprus, however, is in need of a different approach. He said that no magic solution exists and no button can be pushed to resolve the issue but, he noted, Europe needs to have a common migration policy.
He also said that Turkey and other neighboring states need to understand that they have to work with the EU and cooperate because they also will gain if they do so.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris praised Schinas` visit to the island while reiterating that Cyprus, as a frontline state, receives the biggest number of migrants compared to its population. He said that the burden is huge and the EU needs to offer support.
Nouris said that Green Line is an open wound for Cyprus and the large migration flows only add to the distress. He added that the EU must support Cyprus in handling the situation with the Green Line, and although it isn't an external border, measures need to be in place to combat illegal migration.
In addition, Nouris said that FRONTEX needs to patrol Turkey`s coastline where boats can be seen ferrying illegal migrants. Moreover, a FRONTEX officer needs to be stationed at Istanbul airport to check flights departing for the illegal airport in the occupied areas carrying illegal migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.