Controversial barbed wire fencing along stretches of the buffer zone may start being removed in September, reports said on Tuesday.

The news was welcomed by residents of the impacted villages, such as Astromeritis and Akaki, but sources told the Cyprus Mail that the programme is being reviewed – “it is unlikely that it will be developed further, it is being reviewed, but it may not be removed”.

The conflicting statements showcase how the controversial and politically sensitive issue divides opinion, with those close to the matter being cautious.

The barbed wire was planned to stretch the 11km from Astromeritis to the old Nicosia airport and was started under the instruction of former Interior Minister Nicos Nouris in a bid to curb irregular migration from the north via the green line.

“The general feeling is that it really does make it feel like there’s a border with the Turks,” deputy head of Astromeritis’ community council Pambos Panayiotou, told the Cyprus Mail.

He said that the whole project was a waste of money and did not achieve its aim of reducing the flow of irregular migrants crossing the green line from the north – instead, it simply hindered locals.

He added that since the Republic of Cyprus is the only recognised country on the island then the authorities were obliged to take in those who turned up.

“So what was the point of the barbed wire if we had to take them in anyway?” he asked.

Panayiotou said the fencing made the lives of farmers and other locals much harder as some of it ran through their fields or made access to other plots difficult and necessitating permission to be granted.

Another issue is the mandatory gate pass. Leaders of local communities have said that only the farmers can access the gate as the property owner, while merchants that collect their produce have difficulty, as the gate needs to be opened and closed by the individual with the pass.

Just last week some of the impacted communities again spoke out, saying they were assured by Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou that a solution will be found.

Last week’s report stated that the government is not willing to remove the fence, claiming that they are under political pressure not to do so.

It is understood that current minister Ioannou was never convinced of the policy to place barbed wire and other barriers but gave it a period of some months to review its impact.

It appears that the government is satisfied that other policies may achieve the results which the barbed wire failed to do, with recent reports detailing that the number of asylum applications has decreased significantly.

In recent years over 90 per cent of irregular migrants have come from Turkey via the north, however the government has said that routes are changing – with more migrants arriving via the sea. That may be in part due to more favourable conditions at sea during the summer.

But Ioannou emphasised last week that arrivals this year are down sharply compared to 2022, with 735 asylum applications in June 2023 compared to 2,401 in the corresponding month last year.

As the government appears to be distancing itself from the policy of barbed wire, Ioannou has pressed the case for other means to reduce arrivals – such as the implementation of the Eastern Mediterranean Action Plan and getting Turkey to do more.