Irregular migration to Cyprus has led to increased crime rates and threatens public safety, according to ruling Disy leader Averof Neophytou.
Speaking to local media on Wednesday, Neophytou defended the government’s move to place the migration debate at the top of its priorities.
“Our concerns have unfortunately been confirmed, that further than the economic burden placed on the Cypriot economy, irregular migration has also led to increased crime rates and endangers public safety with a real risk of altering the demographic character [of Cyprus],” he said.
Neophytou added that no one is being villainised for belonging to a different religion or nationality.
“I would like to repeat, yet again, that we are not racists: every Cypriot family knows what it means to be a refugee, of whom members of their own families became migrants abroad,” he said.
“And yet, no Cypriot migrant left irregularly and burdened their host communities,” he said.
“And that is why I support the government to take the right actions, to protect public safety, the demographic character [of Cyprus], and crack down on crime from wherever it may come from.”
The debate over migration has resurfaced as a major hot-button issue, with the government seeking to emphasise the high numbers of irregular migrants entering the Republic via the buffer zone.
Last month, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris told EU officials that during mid-October 800 irregular migrants had entered the Republic within a period of ten days.
And earlier this month, the government said that it is seeking approval from the European Commission to suspend asylum applications from those who enter the country illegally.
In that announcement, the government stated that 10,868 irregular migrants arrived in the first 10 months of 2021, of whom 9,270 illegally crossed the green line.
Some have criticised the government’s rhetoric on the issue as causing polarisation and unfairly targeting irregular migrants.