Officials on Thursday conceded they’re running out of ideas on how to stem the influx of irregular migrants, which has doubled this year compared to 2021.

At the House interior affairs committee, MPs discussed the issue of the barbed wire put up across 11 kilometres of the buffer zone – the main point of entry for irregular migrants.

Costas Constantinou, permanent secretary at the interior ministry, said that whereas the razor fence has reduced crossings in the areas in question, traffickers have simply shifted to other points of ingress.

Installing the barbed wire has generated some results, but on its own it is not enough to deal with the overall situation, the official stressed.

“We’re out of options,” Constantinou remarked, calling on anyone to come forward with proposals.

The official spoke of financial interests behind the trafficking of migrants, citing the examples of Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines, a Turkish low-cost carrier. He said these companies transport unaccompanied minors en masse, and that it has become clear that the flight tickets are being subsidised.

Constantinou said the flow of irregular migrants increases exponentially. Already so far this year, some 17,000 people have crossed into the territory controlled by the Republic – almost double the number recorded in 2021. Meantime the number of unaccompanied minors has tripled.

Pressures are mounting at the Pournara reception centre for asylum seekers, with authorities trying to shorten processing time so that space becomes available for new arrivals.

Right now, around 70,000 asylum seekers have crossed into the Republic and are living in cities and villages.

Petros Zeniou, of the police’s Civil Registry and Migration Department, highlighted the importance of locating and identifying irregular migrants.

A major handicap has to do with the relative impunity enjoyed by people traffickers who, even when arrested and convicted, usually get light prison sentences of two to three months. At the same time, traffickers earn vast amounts of money.

Zeniou mentioned the case of one trafficker, detained by authorities back in 2020. Today, the same person has managed to acquire three more speedboats, bringing migrants to the gulf of Morphou within a matter of hours.

During the discussion, Akel MP Aristos Damianou produced an Unficyp document that apparently censures the Republic’s actions within the buffer zone as part of efforts to control irregular migrants.

At one point, the document notes that the Republic’s actions “endanger the integrity of the buffer zone.”

Commenting on this, an official with the foreign ministry said that the UN peacekeeping contingent often behaves as if it has “sovereignty or absolute jurisdiction within the buffer zone.”

Weighing in, the interior ministry’s Constantinou spoke of “apathy” on the part of Unficyp as to what goes on inside the buffer zone.

Damianou harangued the government for its apparent inability to tackle the issue of irregular migrants.

“But most troubling of all, is that as a result of the Anastasiades government’s decisions on the handling of migratory flows, we have come into direct clash with Unficyp…and even worse into direct clash with the UN Security Council.”