The European Union will provide Cyprus with extra support to help it cope with a surge in migrant arrivals across the island’s ceasefire line, the bloc’s executive said on Monday.
Cyprus, the EU’s easternmost state, says numbers of irregular migrants, predominantly from sub-Saharan Africa, have risen sharply, putting a strain on the island’s resources.
They arrive southward across the porous line that divides Cyprus’ Turkish Cypriot and Greek communities, thereby also entering the EU.
Cyprus was split in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a Greek-inspired coup. While the whole island is considered part of the EU, its effective membership of the bloc only covers the area administered by the internationally recognised Greek Cypriot government.
“It is a line which is not our external border, but it is our Achilles’ heel and the area where daily dozens of irregular migrants cross through, all coming from Turkey either by air or sea,” said the government’s Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.
Cyprus registered more than 12,000 migrant arrivals last year, up more than 40% on 2020, latest local data shows. More than 93% arrived via the dividing line.
Its refugee camps and reception centres are overflowing, and clashes among migrants are common, the government says.
EU authorities said the package of support from the bloc’s external border agency Frontex would enhance first reception capacity, speed up asylum processing, assist integration and make it easier to return migrants not granted asylum to their home countries.
Cyprus and the EU signed a memorandum of understanding on the package on Monday.
The ceasefire line, which runs 180 km (110 miles) east to west over terrain from mountains to farmland, is unfenced in many areas.
“Nobody can actually understand the [challenges of monitoring] the line without actually seeing it,” said European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas, who visited the line on Sunday.
Schinas said he would raise the issue of migrant flows across the line with Turkish authorities in early March. [Reuters]