CYPRUS: Nicosia accuses Turkey of assisting people smuggling networks

Nicosia accuses Turkey and the breakaway Turkish-held north of the island of colluding to assist people trafficking networks smuggle migrants into the Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides told state radio that a large influx of migrants were arriving by plane in the north from Turkey then finding their way into the government-controlled south.

Turkish Cypriot authorities are facilitating people trafficking rings, in collaboration with Turkey, Petrides said, noting that this was illegal should not be tolerated on a European level.

In the last few months there has been a massive flow of illegal migrants from the occupied areas to the free areas It is a new phenomenon that we need to take action on, said Petrides.

In May alone, 747 migrants mainly from Africa, Asia and Syria (25-30%) crossed southward in the divided island and only 5% were by boat, Petrides said.

They arrive en masse, demonstrating how organised these networks operate through Turkey and the occupied areas either by tolerance or guidance of the pseudo-state and Turkey, said Petrides.

Turkey hosts large communities of Afghans, Pakistanis and Iraqis, and also others from African nations who have ended up in the country with hopes of arriving in a European country.

Some 286,000 irregular immigrants – those without proper documentation – landed in Turkey in 2018.

Cyprus will review its policy of accepting third-country asylum claimants from the island’s north, Petrides said.

Precisely for humanitarian reasons we have not refused anyone to apply for asylum as we are a country that respects human rights. However, this situation cannot continue.”

Cyprus was the top receiving country per capita of asylum seekers in the EU last year, according to the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Cyprus received 7,765 asylum applications, up 69% on 2017, of these, 26% were from Syria.

The other major receiving countries per capita were Greece, Malta, Sweden and Luxembourg.

Source: The Financial Mirror