Cyprus Declares ‘State of Emergency’ Amid Huge Illegal Migrant Influx


(AFP) — Cyprus said Friday it is in a “state of emergency” because of an inflow of Syrian migrants that has flooded its reception centres, appealing for help from the European Union.

Cyprus has this week faced a “daily wave of migrant arrivals” by sea from the Syrian port of Tartus, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said.

“Due to this situation and overcrowding in reception centres, I was forced to make a written representation to the European Commission,” said Nouris.

He had notified the commission that Cyprus was “entering a state of emergency as far as migration is concerned, and there is no further capacity to host additional migrants”.

Since January, almost 4,000 asylum applications have been rejected, the minister said.

He called for EU help to repatriate those denied asylum in cases in which Nicosia has no bilateral accord with third countries, such as Turkey which does not recognise the Republic of Cyprus.

On Wednesday, Cypriot authorities intercepted a vessel off the island’s east coast carrying 97 migrants from Syria.

On Friday, authorities another 14 people from Syria, including three children, crossed into the Republic of Cyprus from the Turkish-controlled north of the divided island.

In the past four years, the number of asylum seekers in Cyprus has reached four per cent of its population, compared to one per cent in other EU states, the government says.

As the EU’s most southeasterly state, Cyprus has the highest per capita number of first-time asylum seekers in the 27-member bloc, according to Eurostat statistics agency.

But Cyprus, 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the coast of war-torn Syria, has not seen the massive inflow of migrants once experienced by Turkey and Greece.

More than 12,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Cyprus since 2011, of whom 8,500 have been granted international protection, according to the UNHCR.

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