Turkish Cypriot officials say Ankara has decided to host 50 Syrians who have been trapped in Ercan airport due to visa issues.
Kudret Ozersay, who oversees foreign matters in the Turkish Cypriot north, made statements to the press on Tuesday saying that Turkey says it would host the 50 Syrian travelers who flew to Ercan but could not exit the airport due to visa inspection problems.
The issue made headlines last month when Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides spoke about presumptive asylum seekers reportedly coming to the Republic of Cyprus through the north. The minister accused Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot administration of pushing foreign travelers to the south in order to apply for refugee status in the EU member state.
'At some point you exceed your absorbing capacity, and that’s where a humanitarian crisis is created,' Petrides told Politico
Following a growing number of refugees fleeing to the south via the north, Turkish Cypriot officials last month introduced new visa entry requirements for Syrians. Reports said UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, had been involved in consultations with the north over the issue. It was not clear whether Syrians trapped at Ercan airport were officially detained.
Due to carrier sanctions imposed by the European Union, airlines can be fined for transporting travelers who are undocumented or do not possess valid documents. But the directive has also been criticized over the years for tasking airline staff with the responsibility of determining whether someone is or is not a refugee.
Reports suggested that Syrians were flying in from Turkey to the north and then taken to checkpoints, where they would cross into the south and apply for asylum.
In an interview with Politico, Petrides said the crisis was being managed initially but added he was concerned for the future.
“With huge number of unplanned migration, at some point you exceed your absorbing capacity, and that’s where a humanitarian crisis is created,” Petrides told Politico.
Ozersay said Turkey is not obligated to take in the 50 Syrians but added the decision was taken on humanitarian grounds, according to Cyprus News Agency.