The interior ministry and the foreign ministry will soon announce a package of measures to tighten controls both at crossing points and uncontrolled areas along the buffer zone, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Sunday, describing the Green Line as a “black hole”.
Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of an event, Petrides described irregular migration as “an evolving crisis for Cyprus”.
“Given the new situation, but also the massive flows of irregular migrants we have from the occupied areas it is evolving into a major issue for Cyprus,” he said.
“We are working on a joint proposal to the council of ministers, which will also include changes to the Green Line Regulation, but also other measures to enhance controls both at the crossing points and along the buffer zone”.
He said the package of measures would be announced jointly with the foreign ministry.
“The controls need to be stepped up, both at the crossing points and the uncontrolled passageways,” Petrides added.
He said the aim was to exclude certain categories of third-country nationals from crossing at checkpoints in order to ensure that the Green Line Regulation, which was initially adopted in 2004 to facilitate the smooth crossing by all ethnic Cypriots, is not exploited by irregular migrants and trafficking networks.
Under the regulation, EU nationals are also allowed to cross, as are third-country nationals who reside legally in the north.
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.
Most of the migrant flow, however, comes through unauthorised areas of the 180km buffer zone.
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.
“There is this black hole, there is this anomaly created by the occupation of Cyprus, which is also a peculiarity. Of course we have put this to the EU but we need to take our own steps. We are in constant consultation with all ministries on this issue and I think we will say more within the month,” Petrides said.
Asked about Europe’s responsibilities in terms of burden-sharing on migratory flows, Petrides said the EU has this primary responsibility for the situation of returning migrants.
“Europe has a large share of responsibility because Cyprus is implementing the European asylum legal framework which has not changed,” he said, adding that it was unacceptable for Cyprus and Greece and one or two other EU countries to bear the greatest burden,” he added.
Cyprus and Greece have both raised the issue of changing this policy, he said. He also said there needed to be a change in European policy on the return of irregular migrants.