Cyprus Asks EU to Relocate 'Significant' Numbers of Syrian Asylum-Seekers

Cyprus asked European Union executives to relocate a "significant" number of Syrian asylum-seekers given international protection after authorities said the asylum system hit its limits.

Approximately 1,300 Syrians have reached Cyprus by sea since 2019, with one-third arriving in the past three months, according to official data. Additionally, 3,896 have also entered Cyprus via Turkey in the last two years, the Associated Press reported.

"Their numbers have reached such levels that their integration into local communities is realistically unsustainable," the Cypriot Foreign Ministry told the Associated Press Thursday.

Cyprus also requested that the EU border agency Frontex help curtail the flow of migrants from Turkey, the Associated Press reported. Cyprus was not one of the countries included in the deal Turkey signed five years ago to stop migrants from entering EU nations, the ministry said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Cyprus Asylum Seekers
Asylum seekers staying in the Pournara temporary accommodation centre protest over delays in their application process and what they described as the inhumane living conditions in the camp, in Kokkinotrimithia, some 20 kilometres outside the Cypriot capital Nicosia, on February 1, 2021. Christina Assi/AFP via Getty Images

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aimed at a union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and maintains more than 35,000 troops in the north. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004 but only the south enjoys full membership benefits.

The ministry suggested other EU member states could help take in some of these migrants in line with a relocation scheme agreed upon a few years ago for Greece and Italy.

The Cypriot government will also formally request additional EU funding to build a new accommodation center to house asylum-seekers as well as a "pre-departure center" for those who have had their asylum applications rejected.

The number of migrants who have either received or have applied for international protection in Cyprus now accounts for 4 percent of the country's population.

Cypriot authorities say controlling the flow of migrants from the north into the south is exceedingly difficult because the buffer zone isn't a recognized border where authorities can take strict measures to curtail people's movement. There are nine crossing points along the 180-kilometer (120-mile) buffer zone, but most of it is unregulated.

The Foreign Ministry said Cypriot police carry out daily patrols along the buffer zone and thermal cameras will soon be installed to monitor crossings in remote areas.

Cyprus Migrants
People, wearing protective masks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wait in a queue outside the Civil Registry and Migration Department in the Cypriot capital Nicosia on December 28, 2020. David Vujanovic/AFP via Getty Images