Three migrants from the 115 who were washed ashore off the British base at Akrotiri in October will be ‘voluntarily deported’ to their place of origin, a spokesman for the bases said on Tuesday.
Although a timeframe is not yet in place as to when they will be sent back to Lebanon where the Palestinian refugees travelled from, 112 have applied for asylum in Cyprus.
Their decision comes following an ultimatum presented to them by the British bases where they were told they would either apply for asylum or be sent back home.
Initially greeted with defiance, the migrants said they wanted to be able to go the other EU countries such as Belgium, Switzerland or the UK.
The bases always stressed they would not open up a new migrant route to the UK and after realising authorities wouldn’t budge, the migrants eventually applied for asylum.
Moved to the Dhekelia bases, some had already applied for asylum prior to the ultimatum and live in Kokkinotrimithia reception centre in Nicosia.
The arrival of the refugees sparked a debate as to whose responsibility it was to take them in – the UK or Cyprus. The British ministry of defence rushed to issue an announcement a few hours after the refugees’ arrival, that it was Cyprus’ responsibility as part of a 2003 bilateral agreement on cases where refugees enter the island through British bases territory.
But the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), followed by Cyprus government officials, said that the agreement stipulates that the refugees are in fact Britain’s responsibility but that they would be granted access to services in the republic at cost to the British government.