Cyprus blames Turkey for rise in asylum seekers

Cyprus said Turkey has created a new refugee route to Europe via the north of the island by failing to uphold migration deals, the Greek City Times reported.

The route used by illegal migrants to Cyprus, a European Union member “disproportionally burdens” the country, Cypriot leaders said, according to the news website.

“The overwhelming majority of migration flows originated from Turkey, a country that fails to implement all agreements regarding migration towards Cyprus,” the Cypriot foreign and interior ministries said in a joint announcement, the Greek City Times reported.

Cyprus has witnessed a large increase in asylum seekers in recent years. A European Asylum Support Office (EASO) officer working in Cyprus told Ahval in May that since Turkey has closed the routes for migrants crossing to Europe, asylum seekers have found an alternative way through Cyprus.

Migrants are coming to Cyprus through the northern side of the island, as well as by travelling by boat from Syria, the officer said. Northern Cyprus has been controlled by a Turkish Cypriot administration since 1974, when a Turkish invasion in response to a brief Greek Cypriot coup led to the island’s division.

The asylum seekers constitute about four percent of Cyprus’ population, the Greek City Times said. That is more than four times the EU average, it said.

There is an “urgent need” for the European Commission and other international organisations to cooperate with the island over the migration issue, the ministries said.