The Ukrainian refugee crisis and immigration were the main topics discussed today by Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou and Speaker of the Polish Lower House (Sejm), Elżbieta Witek.

According to an official press release, the two met today at the Ministry of Interior in the framework of Witek’s official three-day visit to Cyprus.

During the meeting Ioannou referred to the historic ties between Cypriot and Polish people and their common will to offer solidarity to refugees. Referring to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he said that Cyprus stands united with the rest of Europe to support Ukrainian refugees and noted that efforts are being made for the best possible accommodation of Ukrainian refugees in Cyprus.

Ioannou also referred to the problem associated with increased immigration flows, pointing out that many illegal immigrants, around 95 per cent, come mainly through the Green Line.

The minister explained that as the Green Line is not an external border, it is difficult to apply effective measures to prevent flows.

Ioannou also said the number of asylum applications has increased fivefold in the last six years, while 6 per cent of the population of Cyprus are asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection. These disproportionate numbers in relation to the population of Cyprus, pose a threat to the integration process of those in real need of support and protection, he added.

He expressed the need for real solidarity and a fair distribution of responsibilities and burdens between EU member states which can be achieved on the basis of the Common European Asylum System.

Speaker of the Lower House of Poland noted that she is glad to be in Cyprus, as well as for the opportunity to visit a kindergarten hosting children from Ukraine and stressed that her country stands in solidarity with the refugees. Our position, she said, is to demonstrate solidarity with the refugees.

She briefed the interior minister on the measures taken by Poland on guarding external borders, and said that after visiting the Green Line she fully understands the problem Cyprus faces.

She noted that she recognizes that 6 per cent of applicants and beneficiaries of international protection is a high percentage when attempting to achieve integration into the host society.

She also stated that illegal immigration is an issue of international concern, stating that the surveillance of the EU’s external borders is an important factor in preventing the phenomenon and that Europe cannot have open borders.

Finally, Witek expressed the belief that emphasis should be given by the EU to the countries of origin of immigrants with information campaigns, but also education, projects and infrastructure, in order to prevent irregular flows.