Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Sunday that he will send an official letter to his counterparts in the European Union and to the European Commission asking that a “significant number” of individuals granted international protection in Cyprus be relocated to other EU countries.
He said that given the delay in a permanent solution through a change in the Dublin agreement which stipulates that asylum seekers remain in the first EU country of arrival, Cyprus will also officially apply for the redistribution of individuals granted international protection to other EU countries.
Cyprus has the highest number of applicants for international protection per capita in the EU.
There are currently 15,000 asylum seekers while another 15,000 have been given some form of international protection.
Earlier this week, Petrides announced that his ministry, with EU assistance, will create additional reception facilities for about 1000 asylum seekers to meet an increased influx.
But he noted that small countries like Cyprus or other countries at the EU’s borders with difficult regions such as the Middle East cannot shoulder the entire refugee burden, even of those that qualify.
Asked after a speech in Dromolaxia on Sunday about irregular migrants who fly to to the Turkish occupied north and then make their way across the Green Line, he said this was an anomaly of the Turkish invasion.
“We are a country of the European Union who cannot control our northern borders and Frontex cannot carry out patrols as in other countries. And we cannot take the measures other countries take,” he said.
“Next week an official letter will be sent from the Republic of Cyprus by me to all my counterparts as well as the European Union asking for relocation to EU countries of a significant number of individuals who have protection here in Cyprus,” he said.
The aim is to ease the disproportionate burden on Cyprus.
“With the response of the countries, officially and in writing we will see whether the solidarity that we seek and the European Union says is one of its fundamental principles is implemented,” he added.
He dismissed criticism about Cyprus’ handling of asylum seekers, saying that Nicosia had managed to avert humanitarian problems, adding that it was inevitable that there would be delays if there are thousands of applications.
Every country has an absorption limit and once this is exceeded it cannot cope adequately adding that journalists should ask the Labour Minister how Cyprus’ social welfare system has been affected, he concluded.