Interior Minister Nicos Nouris defended a decision to install razor wire along the buffer zone to stop migrants from crossing, challenging Turkish Cypriot detractors to stop the flow from Turkey.
Nouris reiterated that the Republic faced a huge migration problem, ranking top in the EU in the number of migrant arrivals as a proportion to the population.
“The number of asylum seekers in the Republic is approaching 4 per cent …,“ the minister said, when other countries like Greece, Spain and Italy were under 1 per cent.
The government is currently erecting a razor wire fence along the buffer zone near Astromeritis, Peristerona and Akaki, with the plan being to cover about 11km to the defunct Nicosia airport.
The ministry has also cracked down on sham marriages and third-country students who ended up seeking asylum after arrival on the island.
It has also struck an agreement with Lebanon to send back any migrants who set sail from the neighbouring country.
“The dividing line remains the big problem,” Nouris said. “When 75 per cent of the migrant flows coming through the dividing line, we ought above all to adhere to what the Green Line Regulation states, that is, effective management and prevention of any illegal entry.”
The minister said the government had no intention of raising tensions and rejected suggestions that the razor wire implied borders.
To Turkish Cypriots who criticised the decision, Nouris said “it would be interesting to hear, especially from certain Turkish Cypriot parties, what they are doing to stop” Turkey which systematically channels migrants to the occupied part of Cyprus and from there to the Republic through the dividing line.
“We would have no intention of installing this obstacle if there was control on behalf of Turkish Cypriots. Apparently, there isn’t any.”
The wire has also upset famers in the area who have fields in the buffer zone because it has made it difficult to access them.