Cyprian police say they have stopped several dozen migrants trying to cross from the Turkish-controlled to the Greek part of the island. Earlier this month, more than 100 asylum seekers protested against poor job prospects and exploitation in Cyprus.
Cypriot authorities said on Tuesday that they found 37 migrants trying to cross the border from the northern part of the Mediterranean island into the southern part. CyprusMail Online reported that the group arrived in the capital city of Nicosia and the town of Morphou. While the northern part is controlled by Turkey, the South is predominantly inhabited by Greek Cypriots.
Cyprus, officially the Cypriot Republic, has been divided since 1974, and became a member of the European Union in 2004. Technically, the entire island is part of the EU, but EU laws apply only in the south.
The island state, located some 170 kilometers off the Lebanese and 70 kilometers off the Turkish coast, is an increasingly popular entry point for migrants, who hail predominantly from Africa, trying to reach the EU. Smugglers reportedly charge €2,000 ($2,250) per person for the ride.
Third-highest ratio of refugees per capita
There are about 10,000 asylum seekers in Cyprus currently. The island has the highest ratios of refugees per capita in the EU after Malta and Luxembourg, according to the latest figures from the EU Commission, which are from 2017.
Catholic charity Caritas says the number of asylum seekers coming to Cyprus has increased dramatically last year, with migrants arriving both by sea and plane (via the Turkish-administered north).
Asylum seekers criticize lack of job opportunities
Earlier this month, between 150 and 170 asylum seekers in Cyprus took to the streets of Nicosia to demand full access to the labor market. A ministerial decision passed in October 2018 states that asylum seekers should be given access to the labor market one month after filing their asylum application. The reality is very different though: Finding a valid rental contract, for example, is often the first hurdle asylum seekers have to overcome. Without an official rental contract, they cannot register at the labor office or receive the benefits to which they are entitled from the EU.
Another challenge asylum seekers in Cyprus face is that they are only allowed to pursue certain, low-paying jobs. Currently, they can only apply for work in agriculture, fishing, manufacturing, waste management, wholesale trade repairs, building as well as outdoor cleaning (car washes), food delivery and leafleting.
With material from dpa