Cyprus Officially Overwhelmed by Influx of Migrants

Syrian refugees at border in Europe (Photo by Sandor Csudai)

Cyprus has suspended the processing of asylum applications from Syrians following a sharp increase in irregular arrivals this month, authorities said on Sunday.

After a recent increase in number of illegal arrivals Nicosia has called on the European Union to do more to assist Lebanon, as well as reconsider the status of parts of Syria, which is wholly considered unsafe to repatriate asylum seekers.

“This is an emergency measure, it’s a difficult decision to protect the interests of Cyprus,” Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides told reporters.

The Cypriot government stated that ongoing efforts to have the European Union categorize certain areas of Syria as safe zones in order to enable migrant repatriations were a contributing factor in the decision. To get support for such categorization, Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou has been traveling throughout Europe, stopping in Denmark, Czechia, and Greece.

Ioannou declared that he and his colleagues from the Czech Republic and Denmark will draft an official document for the EU executive to review in order to start a formal dialogue around the concept of a Syrian safe zone.

Additionally, despite the fact that UN and NGO organizations maintain that nowhere in Syria meets the criteria for being considered safe, Cyprus and Czechia intend to dispatch a combined expedition to investigate.

A spokesman for the European Commission told Brussels Signal that Cyprus shouldn’t have too much hope for the situation.“Any return of refugees to Syria needs to be safe, voluntary and dignified, in line with UNCHR parameters and thresholds. The EU supports the Syrian refugees and their aspiration to live safely at home. (…) For them to be able to return to their country, the necessary conditions need to be in place,” the spokesperson said.

A spokeswoman for the Cypriot government stated in a statement that Christodoulides and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen subsequently talked about the potential of providing a strengthened package of economic aid to Lebanon. The statement went on to say that in order to do this, it was decided they will travel to Lebanon together following a visit by Commission representatives.

Located roughly 160 km (100 miles) west of the coasts of Syria and Lebanon, Cyprus is the easternmost and most closely related state of the European Union. In the first three months of this year, there were almost 2,000 sea arrivals, as opposed to just 78 during the same period in 2023.

Asylum applicants will effectively be restricted to two receiving camps that provide food, shelter, and controlled exits, with no further benefits, as a result of the application processing being halted. According to government officials, anybody who opt to vacate those facilities will instantly forfeit any benefits and will be prohibited from working.


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