From file: Pournara Refugee Camp in Cyprus | Photo: Anupam Deb Kanunjna
From file: Pournara Refugee Camp in Cyprus | Photo: Anupam Deb Kanunjna

Dozens of migrants have arrived in the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus in the last 48 hours, Cypriot authorities said Tuesday. At least 120 people have been detained.

More migrants have been attempting to enter Cyprus in the last 48 hours. That’s according to the Greek-speaking state broadcaster for the Republic of Cyprus RIK on Tuesday, July 26.

According to the radio station, at least 120 migrants have been detained by the Cypriot authorities after trying to cross to Cyprus by sea, either from Lebanon or Turkey.

The nationalities of the new arrivals were not reported.

A local English language news portal, Cyprus Mail, also reported on July 26 that at least 29 migrants had arrived via the Republic's border with the north of the divided island, which is only recognized by Turkey and is de facto not in the EU.

'Frequent' crossings

The village where the migrants arrived, Kato Pyrgos Tyllirias, is a frequent point of arrival. The community leader, Nikos Kleanthous, told the Cyprus Mail that the group included two minors, and they had arrived early in the morning "on foot from Limitis," which is near the coast.

Kleanthous said villagers had seen the migrants walking around the area at around 2:30am. Police reportedly refused to give a statement, but took the group of migrants to Cyprus's reception center at Pournara.

"The whole area is concerned with the constant arrival of illegal immigrants that has become a frequent phenomenon," Kleanthous told the Cyprus Mail. He implored the Cypriot authorities to try and stop the migrant arrivals.

Kleanthous thought more needed to be done to guard the island’s coast line and patrol the ports.

Also read: Rama's story about life as an asylum seeker in Cyprus

EU calls on Turkish Cyprus to 'toughen up measures'

Although in absolute terms, Cyprus doesn’t have that many migrants, asylum seekers or refugees, in respect to its population, it receives the most asylum applications per year, according to the EU. The government of the Republic has repeatedly called on the EU to help it manage the applications.

Earlier in July, the European Union called on the Turkish Cypriot authorities to "toughen up measures aimed at reducing the rising number of migrants seeking asylum in the island nation’s internationally recognized south," reported the news agency Associated Press (AP).

The EU official who spoke to AP spoke on condition of anonymity, reported the news agency. The Republic’s government has repeatedly accused the Turkish-run north of the island of "instrumentalizing economic migrants from sub-Saharan Africa."

Many fly in to mainland Turkey on visas from their countries and then transfer directly on to the northern part of Cyprus from airports in Turkey. Once there, they wait to cross the UN-controlled green line, which divides the island, by foot, in the hope of applying for asylum in the EU or just continuing with their studies in Cyprus.

EU helps with monitoring Green Line crossing

The EU has asked Turkish Cypriot authorities to "tighten up vetting procedures" for the visas, to prevent this kind of arrival from happening, AP reports. The EU has also sent help to the Greek-Cypriot authorities to monitor the green line and "deter crossings." The aid was reportedly in compliance with EU law, since the 180-kilometer crossing is not a formal border.

In the first half of 2022, 12,000 asylum seekers arrived in the southern part of the island, according to Cypriot authorites. That is equal to the number for the whole of 2021 and account for 5% of the Cypriot population.

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR’s latest figures for Cyprus (last updated in March 2022) there were just over 5,000 people submitting new applications for asylum in 2022 to the end of March. This represented an increase on the same period in 2021, when just over 3,000 people submitted first time asylum applications.

Also read: Migrants live in misery as Cyprus is overwhelmed with arrivals

From file: The Pournara camp near Nicosia in Cyprus has long been overcrowded | Photo: picture alliance/AP
From file: The Pournara camp near Nicosia in Cyprus has long been overcrowded | Photo: picture alliance/AP

Asylum seekers in Republic of Cyprus

According to UN figures, a total of 106,030 people applied for asylum in the Republic of Cyprus between 2002 and March 2022. Just 16,070 were granted protection in that time period.

Reports suggest that the waiting time for processing applications can be very long indeed. Some asylum seekers and organizations that work with them complain of years-long waits before they get an answer.

By the end of March 2022, there were 21,643 asylum applications pending, and 6,752 appeals.

The majority of those applying for asylum in the Republic of Cyprus come from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Syria, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Somalia, Cameroon, Afghanistan, India and Sierra Leone, according to UNHCR.

Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians and Somalis were the most likely to receive aasylum in the country, although Syrians had a protection rate of 69.5% on average in the period between 2002 and 2022 and only 2% of those were granted full refugee status.

With AP, dpa


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