By Lizzy Ioannidou
Cyprus is not satisfied with the progress made so far in the EU-level negotiations on immigration, as delays in agreement over the mechanism of automatic redistribution of arrivals across member states mean that Cyprus continues to take in more than its fair share of refugees, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Friday.
On the sidelines of the meeting of interior ministers of the EU in Luxembourg, Petrides said: “The current meeting is particularly important for the union and for Cyprus, especially in view of the deadline set by the heads of state, whereby up until the end of the year negotiations should be concluded and a comprehensive framework for a solution should be proposed,” he said.
A summit is to take place on October 18, he said, where heads of state will discuss the issue of migration.
“We cannot say that we are satisfied with the progress of the negotiations at the EU level so far and we do not think that satisfactory progress has been achieved, as there are significantly divergent positions among the member states that make the possibility of an overall agreement, such that Cyprus is aiming towards, doubtful.”
Petrides stressed that Cyprus had far exceeded its fair share of the number of asylum seekers.
The “flaming issue” for Cyprus, Petrides said, as is the case for other countries on the front line of the migration issue such as Greece and Malta, is that “these flows cannot be handled by these countries alone – the EU must act together and it must proceed with automatic and obligatory redistributions (of refugees) throughout the EU.”
Petrides also noted that the final agreement cannot come in pieces, but “must be a complete package, which includes the redistribution mechanism, so that a comprehensive solution can be reached.”
This is not only for the benefit of the front-line countries he said, as it will also be beneficial for the refugees themselves, who will be able to be better integrated into society and into the labour market.
The highest number of first-time asylum applicants relative to the population across the EU in the second quarter of the year was registered in Cyprus, with 1,656 per million, Eurostat figures showed late last month.