Asylum seekers in Cyprus, 2017 | Photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Karadjias
Asylum seekers in Cyprus, 2017 | Photo: picture-alliance/AP Photo/P. Karadjias

Cyprus has submitted a request for EU member states to take over 5,000 migrants and refugees, as the number of people seeking asylum and protection is quickly rising in the island nation. It has also criticized Turkey in particular for not taking appropriate action.

Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides contacted several EU nations, including Germany, as well as the EU Commission, saying "Cyprus is in urgent need of immediate assistance, given the unprecedented high number of arrivals."

Cyprus, an EU member since 2004, currently has the EU's highest number of first-time asylum applications per capita, with a population of less than 900,000. Within the first six months of 2019, there's been a 130 percent increase in arrivals to the Republic of Cyprus, according to Petrides. More than a quarter of all applications come from Syrian nationals.

At a protest in Cyprus some migrants feel that they are discriminated against | Photo: Caritas Cyprus

No Turkey-EU deal for Cyprus

Petrides specified in his letter that the highest percentage of arrivals came from Turkey and the Turkish-occupied north of the island — some 8,500 people between 2015 and 2019, according to the letter. He also highlighted that Turkey has not been forthcoming in offering any help to ease the situation. Petrides said that Turkey "systematically refuses to cooperate with the competent authorities of the Republic."

Turkey struck a deal with the EU in 2016 designed to stop migrants from reaching the EU, however, Ankara doesn't appear to enforce the deal when it comes to Cyprus, effectively providing migrants and refugees an entry point into the EU.

The north of the island has been occupied by Turkish forces since 1974, which Turkey — as the only nation in the world — considers to be a nation in its own right, making any legal disputes along the border between the two territories even more difficult.

A European Commission spokesperson said the EU executive meanwhile said that Brussels was "following the situation in Cyprus very closely."

"We have already significantly stepped up support ... both financially and operationally."

Stretching 180 kilometers across Cyprus and ranging from a few meters to a few kilometers in width, the UN-patrolled ceasefire line offers innumerable blind spots for those determined to evade detection


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