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Minister urges all EU member states to submit pledges to relocate 5000 persons from Cyprus

Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides has urged all EU member states to submit pledges for the relocation of 5000 persons under international protection in Cyprus in order to significantly alleviate the disproportionate pressures and severe challenges faced by the country’s authorities and social structures.

In a letter to the EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and to his counterparts of the other EU member states, Petrides noted that Cyprus is currently hosting around 9,000 persons granted protection only in the past few years. Syrian nationals, as prima facie persons in need of protection, account for over 26% of the overall migratory influx of Cyprus from 2016 onwards.

Moreover, he noted that according to the available data, around 8,500 persons came to Cyprus from Turkey or through the occupied areas between 2015-2019.

The number of persons arriving in Cyprus and applying for asylum between January and June 2019 is nearly 7.000, while the backlog of applications awaiting examination has increased to almost 15,000, despite the additional staff hired by the Asylum Service.

Unfortunately, despite our efforts to effectively manage the mass influx but also our repeated pleas for solidarity measures, Cyprus has not benefited from any relocation scheme so far, he stressed.

In his three-page letter, Petrides said, among others, that arrivals in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean continue to steadily increase, noting that in the absence of a truly holistic agreement that will enable the appropriate management of migratory influx to the EU, the Republic of Cyprus is in urgent need of immediate assistance, given the unprecedented high number of arrivals.

At the same time, and despite our continuous efforts, Turkey systematically refuses to cooperate with the competent authorities of the Republic. Furthermore, and while the greatest percentage of the arrivals come to Cyprus through Turkey or via the occupied area, the Turkish occupation of 37% of our territory, makes it impossible to implement any measures targeted to reducing the migratory influx towards the Republic, he added.

Moreover, he said that with a population of barely 850,000 people, Cyprus remains the top receiving member state regarding first time asylum applications in proportion to its population for the third consecutive year, despite our systematic efforts.

Noting that it is very likely that the systematic increase of arrivals will continue or even reach a further peak, as it has been the case for the past three years, Petrides said that “despite a series of measures that have been taken with a view to strengthen our asylum system and its capacities, the disproportionate pressures of the past three consecutive years have reached a peak of 130% increase in the first six months of 2019.”

The Minister stressed that “as one of the guardians of the Union’s external borders, we remain committed towards our obligations deriving from international and European acquis. Nonetheless, I have to admit that our capabilities and resources are beyond the point of exhaustion and we are at risk of not being able to help those who are really in need of protection,” he added.

“In line with article 80 TFEU, I hereby urge all Member States to submit their pledges for relocating 5,000 persons from Cyprus, on the basis of bilateral agreements, and with priority given to vulnerable persons, in order to significantly alleviate the disproportionate pressures and severe challenges faced, both by the Authorities, but also the social structures of the country. Financial support for the implementation of the scheme should become available in line with existing instruments,” the Minister noted in his letter.

He concluded by saying that “only a Europe that stands in solidarity with all its members, especially those in grave need of assistance, can promote its values and protect the principles that founded the European family.”

Turkey does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member state since 2004. Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.

(Cyprus News Agency)

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