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Reasons people migrate key in addressing migration issue, president says (updated)

ΠτΔ – Διεθνή Διάσκεψη για τη Μετανάστευση στην Ιταλία
President Nikos Christodoulides at the International Conference on Development and Migration in Rome

Decision makers must tackle the migration crisis as whole, focusing on the reasons that lead people to migrate, President Nikos Christodoulides said on Sunday.

Speaking to the media from Rome, where he is participating in the International Conference on Migration and Development, the president emphasised the importance of Cyprus’ presence at this summit as a country with the highest number of asylum applications.

This meeting, bringing together key stakeholders from various nations, marks a significant occasion for discussing what the president considers the most crucial aspect in comprehensively addressing the issue of migration – its root causes.

These are the underlying factors driving citizens to migrate towards Europe, he explained.

Recent examples, such as Italy, where the Italian Prime Minister has taken initiatives with neighbouring countries, present successful models on which to build, the president said.

“I believe that an open and honest discussion is crucial to addressing the most important aspect of migration – its root causes. We must work together to tackle the underlying issues that lead to this phenomenon,” he said, noting any actions must be human-centred.

The president highlighted the importance of the presence of European and international economic organisations during the discussions. He said the aim is to explore how they can support these countries and help build the necessary infrastructure to put an end to these migratory flows.

Regarding Cyprus, Christodoulides said migration is considered one of the most pressing issues that the country is called upon to manage.

Over the last six years, Cyprus has consistently been the EU member state with the highest number of asylum applicants for international protection in proportion to its population.

The number of asylum applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus exceeds 55,000 people, representing 6 per cent of the country’s population. This is significantly higher compared to other frontline countries where the figure is 1 per cent and other EU countries where it is lower than 1 per cent.

Furthermore, in the last three years, the increasing irregular arrivals by sea and through the green line have been a cause of concern. The president noted that more than 98 per cent of irregular arrivals occur through the non-government-controlled areas of the island.

He underscored the need for a comprehensive, coordinated, and unified approach to addressing this issue, involving close and sincere cooperation among affected countries, as well as regional and international organisations.

The president also advocated for providing assistance to countries that have demonstrated themselves to be reliable partners, such as Egypt, Lebanon, and Jordan, which have shouldered immense burdens concerning migration.

Egypt has made efforts to prevent illegal migration to EU countries and hosts a considerable number of refugees. Lebanon, despite facing political and economic crises, hosts the largest number of Syrian refugees compared to its population, while Jordan, too, requires immediate support, Christodoulides said.

He also emphasised the importance of respecting the national sovereignty of countries and the shared responsibility, solidarity, and cooperation that should exist among partners aiming for mutually beneficial outcomes.

The President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council as well as heads of states and governments from countries with the largest numbers of migrants participated in the conference, along with Middle Eastern and African countries, European institutions and the UN.

The Cypriot president attended the conference upon the invitation of the Prime Minister of Italy Giorgia Meloni.

According to Eurostat, in April 2022, 54,145 third-country nationals applied for international protection in EU Member States, an increase of 66 per cent compared to April 2021 when applications reached 32,570.

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