The interior minister of the Republic of Cyprus says the island cannot host more economic migrants as another boatload of refugees arrived on Tuesday, clarifying that authorities would not send back those whose lives may be in danger.
A vessel carrying a total of 101 presumptive refugees from Syria reached Cyprus on Tuesday afternoon, after it was spotted some 30 nautical miles east of Cape Greco in the late morning.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, there were 13 adult females on board, 43 children, and 45 adult males.
CNA also quoted officials saying some of the passengers on board the vessel were on a journey from Syria through Turkey to reunite with their families in Cyprus, while four pregnant women and nine unaccompanied minors were among the passengers.
The presumptive refugees were escorted to a reception facility in Kokkinotrimithia, rural Nicosia, while women who were pregnant were taken to hospital in Paralimni.
One person, aged 22, has been arrested on human trafficking charges and related offences according to police.
Following a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said Cyprus could not cope with the “number of economic migrants arriving on the island” and added that refugee arrivals reached 3.8 percent of the total population.
“Today we have children who need the Republic’s protection, we have refugees in the Republic. These are the people we want and can host, and we have the capability to host them,” the minister said.
Last week, Nouris accused Ankara of being actively involved in attempts to alter the demographic composition of the island of Cyprus, saying Turkey was pushing economic migrants to the south.
According to CNA, Nouris said the Republic of Cyprus would like to repatriate migrants, while clarifying that no person would be sent back to a country where his or her life may be in danger.
“We want to send back those who come from so called safe third countries and are simply moving to the Republic of Cyprus in search of a better future,” Nouris added.
A plan to accelerate the adjudication of asylum applications as well as deportation proceedings has already been in the works, according to the minister, “so that our country will be able to reduce the number of economic migrants in the Republic in order to be able to offer what we are able and willing to give to those who really need it.”
The minister also defended the government’s controversial decision to build a detention facility for asylum applicants, saying the interior ministry’s migration department would receive support to accelerate the adjudication process and any deportations resulting from it.
"Today’s numbers do not allow us to implement the proper policy and this is why a very concrete strategy is being drafted," Nouris said, adding that a new statement on the issue would be made soon.