The number of refugees filing for subsidiary protection in Cyprus continues to rise while the government calls on the EU to make sure that Turkey sticks to its part of the agreement to end irregular migration from its shores to EU countries for Cyprus too, the head of the immigration department Makis Polydorou said.
In an event to mark the World Refugee Day organised by the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus and the European Parliament Information Office in Cyprus, Polydorou said that an increasing tendency in the arrivals of refugees and immigrant is being recorded the last few years.
According to Polydorou, Cyprus is no longer a transit country for refugees who arrive from the Middle East, but a final destination.
So far this year, he said, 1,500 applications for subsidiary protection have been filed concerning 1,740 people. Subsidiary protection is an international protection for persons seeking asylum who do not qualify as refugees.
The last three years there has been an increasing tendency as regards applications from refugees for subsidiary protection, Polydorou said. Last year a 30 per cent increase was recoded compared with 2015, he said, while the increasing tendency continues in 2017.
He added that the majority of subsidiary protection applicants arrive on the island through the north and that the agreement Turkey signed last year with the EU – which provides for the former to prevent new sea or land routes for irregular migration from its territory to the EU – is not applicable for Cyprus, because Turkey refuses to cooperate.
Under the agreement, the EU is to provide €3bn to Turkey to help it provide for refugees.
“We are constantly asking for the agreement to be implemented. Cyprus is not the pariah of the EU,” Polydorou said. He added that the EU should back its member states that are more easily accessible to refugees.
People smugglers, he said, promote Cyprus as a destination to the refugees, who are falsely being told that they can travel from the island anywhere in Europe. Smugglers, he said, profit greatly from this, as they charge up to €5,000 per head.
For the majority of refugees arriving by boat through Turkey, he said, Cyprus is a final destination, as they have family on the island.
Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus, George Markopouliotis, referred to the efforts of the Commission on the issue of refugees.
To address the issue, he said, the EU requires a comprehensive policy on migration and asylum based on the principles of solidarity, mutual trust and equal sharing of responsibilities between member states.