President Nicos Anastasiades on Tuesday said the flow of migrants from Turkey was concerning and suggested it could be a deliberate attempt to alter the demographic character of Cyprus.
The president spoke to journalists after Government Spokesman Kyriacos Kousios said there are about 100 people at the Green Line requesting political asylum.
Asked whether he suspected an organised effort by Turkey to send migrants to Cyprus, the president said: “With all that is going on in Greece, and what we have seen until now – with Cyprus as the highest per capita country for asylum seekers – it is definitely worrying.”
“We acknowledge the human suffering,” he added. “But at the same time we must also take measures against efforts to alter the demographic character of our country. I do not need to comment on what is evident with the thousands who are attempted and encouraged by Turkey at the Greek or Bulgarian borders”.
Earlier Kousios spoke of the 100 migrants along the Green Line but he did not say where along the 180km buffer zone the asylum seekers were.
“We have spoken to the immigration authorities and were told that 130 people have applied for asylum today [Tuesday],” Emilia Strovolidou from the UNHCR told the Cyprus Mail.
“Of the 130 people, about 105 are in Nicosia – but we have not heard of people at the Green Line,” she said.
Unficyp spokesman Aleem Siddique also said that his office has not been made aware of 100 people in, or along, the Green Line requesting asylum.
The government spokesman also said that President Nicos Anastasiades would speak to Greece’s Prime Kyriacos Mitsotakis on the phone about the migrant crisis at Evros, along the Greek-Turkish border.
“There are people from troubled countries, but also economic migrants,” Kousios said. “We are in constant communication with the EU and Frontex, and are calling on the EU for new measures in regards to refugees and economic migrants”
“If this is not handled as a European issue, then I do wonder where we will end up,” Kousios said. “It must be understood that Greece, Italy, Malta and Cyprus are the borders of the EU.”
This sentiment was echoed by Mitsotakis himself, saying “Greece’s borders are also Europe’s borders.”
Kousios reiterated the government’s assessment that 3.5 per cent of Cyprus’ population is already comprised of refugees, and that “the migratory flow will increase due to Turkey’s decisions, and we must expect a large influx.”
When asked what measures are being taken to deal with the recent developments, Kousios said that many countries on the “front line” will face problems – referencing the situation at Evros in Greece.
He added that there are not many solutions to problem – saying that there has been a 320 per cent increase in the flow of refugees over the last two years.
A journalist present raised the question as to whether all those requesting asylum are refugees, and Kousios replied that “the reality is that there are very large number of economic migrants.”
He said of the 100 requesting asylum today, many are from African and Asian countries – saying that “this is precisely what we must address, but also the EU as a whole.”
Greece’s prime minister will carry out a planned inspection tour of Evros later on Tuesday with the heads of the three main EU institutions.
European leaders are desperate to avoid a repeat of the 2015-16 crisis, when more than a million migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Asia, entered the EU from Turkey via Greece and the Balkans, putting a heavy strain on European security and welfare systems and boosting support for far-right parties.