NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – The European Union may find ways to stem the flow of migrants from Turkey to Cyprus and other EU countries during its high-level talks in Ankara next month, said a senior EU official on Tuesday.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said that “it is not impossible to find a way forward” to prevent migrants from leaving Turkey to reach Cyprus, as the number of migrants reaching Cyprus is low. not very large compared to the huge number of refugees Turkey is hosting. But she couldn’t tell what such a deal would look like.
Johansson said she wanted to learn firsthand about the hardships faced by ethnically divided Cyprus, which she said has the most asylum claims among any EU country relative to its population. She also visited a reception center for migrants on the outskirts of Nicosia, the Cypriot capital.
âWe have faced … many challenges in our relations with Turkey. Now we are in a situation where these relations areâ¦ better, âJohansson said after talks with Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.
Nouris accused Turkey of “systematically and daily” encouraging migrants arriving in the separatist Turkish Cypriot north of Cyprus to cross a United Nations buffer zone to the internationally recognized south, where they seek asylum in a country in the United States. EU. Cypriot authorities say around 80% of migrant arrivals to the south are routed through the north
Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded it following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence.
Nouris said Cyprus was stepping up its maritime police to prevent the arrival of smuggler boats full of migrants and stepping up patrols and electronic surveillance along the southern edges of the buffer zone. He said that since the start of the year 7,000 out of 8,500 asylum claims have been rejected, but only 300 people have been repatriated due to an EU-wide political “weakness” .
Johansson said she had “question marks” over an agreement Cyprus has with Lebanon to return migrants on board boats near the Cypriot coast. She said EU regulations state that people can apply for asylum at the bloc’s sea borders.
Nouris said the agreement with Lebanon was maintained and the return of migrants to that country would continue.
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