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Our View: Remains to be seen if recognition of ‘border that is not a border’ will help migrant problem

migrants outside the kokkinotrimithia refugee camp on the outskirts of nicosia

The interior ministry was entitled to treat the EU’s recognition of the instrumentalisation of migration by Turkey through the Green Line as a success. It was, considering how long the government has tried to get Brussels involved in the unrelenting flow of migrants to the Republic through the buffer zone.

There has always been a suspicion that the European Commission did not want to get involved in the matter and was using the argument about the Green Line not being an external border as an excuse. Turkey has become home to millions of refugees following a deal it reached with the EU and Brussels, and the latter does not want to put this arrangement at risk by applying pressure on Ankara in relation to the Green Line.

For some time, the Cyprus government accepted this argument, especially as its priority had always been the prevention of acceptance, even implicit, of the dividing line as a border. Anything else could lead to the upgrading of the regime in the north, a prospect which the Cyprus government is terrified of. The EU and the Republic appear to have got round this supposed danger with the claim that the Green Line was recognised as “a border but not a border,” which has an absurd ring to it.

This dubious phrasing, in theory, would give the Republic more tools to stop the migrants crossing from the north, including support from EU institutions and agencies that had not become involved in Cyprus because the Green Line was not regarded as a border. As the interior ministry said, the official admission of instrumentalisation of migration by Turkey meant the Republic could “stop the daily illegal crossings of irregular migrants channelled through the occupied territories by adopting all those means and measures that are applied at the external borders of the European Union.”

We can only express the hope that this will be the case, because Cyprus is facing an immigration problem that is becoming worse by the day, with reception centres overcrowded and resources being stretched. The island has been receiving the highest number of irregular migrants, as percentage of its population, in the EU for the last few years. And more than 90 per cent of these people are crossing over from the north, without the authorities being able to stop them. EU assistance and support is desperately needed for dealing with the problem, but it remains to be seen whether the inclusion of the Green Line in the proposal for dealing with the instrumentalisation of migration, will have the desired outcome.

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