On the final leg of his journey from Iraq to Europe, Hawye Rasool Saleh paid 400 euros ($457) borrowed from his best friend to a smuggler who would help him across the cease-fire line of ethnically split Cyprus.
Increasing number of migrants making way to Greek Cyprus through north
Cyprus is increasingly becoming an attractive destination for migrants and refugees seeking shelter and a new life in Europe as they arrive in the north of the island and make their way down to the Greek Cyprus, the Cyprus Mail said.
A buffer zone divides the northern Turkish Cyprus from the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, a European Union member.The Mediterranean island has been split since Turkish invasion of the northern third in 1974.
‘’Turkish Cypriot authorities don't require advance visas for passengers arriving from Turkey,’’ the article stressed, noting others arrive directly in southern Cyprus on rickety smuggling vessels from Turkey or Lebanon, which has taken in about 1 million Syrian refugees.
There's now a backlog of 8,000 asylum applications and it takes three to five years to process a claim, including appeals, the Cyprus Mail quoted Corina Drousiotou, who heads the Cyprus Refugee Council, a nonprofit group, as saying.
The EU’s European Asylum Support office is deploying 29 case workers plus interpreters to help Cyprus clear the backlog, it said, and has given Cyprus almost 40 million euros for migration management for the period between 2014-2020.
There is at least one trafficking ring using the breakaway north as a conduit for migrants from Syria via Turkey, from where they either catch commercial flights or boats to the island, the Greek Reported said, adding that, ‘’government officials say nearly half of the recent migrant arrivals have entered Cyprus that way.’’
Greek Cyprus has sought additional funding from the EU for its migrant centers, process asylum applications and better monitor the border while also trying to establish a fast-track asylum procedure and set up committed courts to hear the appeals of asylum applicants who have been unsuccessful.