INTERIOR Minister Constantinos Petrides this week again referred to amending the Green Line Regulation to help stop the flow of irregular migration.
It is not clear how many asylum seekers have come through official checkpoints but under current regulations some, but probably not that many. Third-country nationals are allowed to cross if they legally reside in the north. There is nothing then to stop them applying for asylum once they are in the Republic so some who have lived in the north legally for a time may have done so.
The Green Line report for 2018 shows that there were 1,129,293 official crossings by EU citizens and third-country nationals compared with 822,318 in 2017. This was a large increase, but the report does not provide separate numbers for each category.
According to Petrides, asylum seekers are flying into Ankara, presumably with a valid visa for Turkey, and then making their way to the north and from there to the Republic by crossing illegally.
In 2018, some 4,451 irregular migrants crossed the buffer zone. The equivalent figures for 2017, 2016 and 2015 were 1,686, 1,499 and 1,290. The main countries of origin of irregular migrants were Syria (1,573), Cameroon (472), Pakistan (444), Bangladesh (391) and Iraq (328). Out of the 4,451 irregular migrants, 95 per cent (4,233) applied for international protection in the Republic.
It has been suggested that one of the solutions being considered by the government is to refuse asylum outright to anyone who crosses illegally from the north. This would appear to be a much bigger issue than just amending the Green Line Regulation and strays into all sorts of international protection rights so it’s hard to see how it would fly.
All EU countries are dealing with irregular migration and following international protection laws to do that, so why should Cyprus receive special treatment? This might very well be the response the government receives. Amending the Green Line regulation would only be the last stage or formality of the process if Cyprus was to receive such a derogation.
The Green Line regulation already makes clear that Cyprus is responsible for stemming the flow stating: “Effective surveillance shall be carried out by the Republic of Cyprus all along the line, in such a way as to discourage people from circumventing checks at the crossing points”. So, the onus is already on us. This of course is an impossible provision, manpower aside, as police could not enter the 180-km long UN-controlled buffer zone to turn back irregular migrants before they reach the Republic, and as things stand, once they enter, asylum requests must take their course.
This is the crux of the matter. Cyprus is a divided country and only a solution to the Cyprus problem can lift the suspension of the acquis in the north and pave the way to resolve this problem to any degree on a federal basis. The Green Line Regulation is not the problem here. The Green Line is, but it looks like that is going to stay around for a while yet.