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Greece joins Cyprus’ EU ‘Syria group’

Ioannou, Dimitris Kairidis, migration, immigrants, migrants
Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou discussing Syria with Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis

Greece is to join Cyprus’ group of European Union member states which will focus on the matter of declaring parts of Syria safe, Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said on Friday.

Ioannou met with Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis on the sidelines of the Delphi Economic Forum in Athens, and in a post on X, the social media platform better known as Twitter, after the meeting, said he “welcomes” Greece into the group.

Pursuant to that, he said he intends to send a letter to all the EU member states which have expressed an interest in further cooperation.

At Friday’s meeting, both Ioannou and Kairidis agreed that the increase in flows of asylum seekers and irregular migrants to Cyprus is “alarming”, and that “joint actions” need to be taken to better manage the issue.

They both also agreed to jointly claim funds from the newly-created EU fund created as part of the bloc’s ten-point redesign of its migration system, which was passed by the European Parliament on Wednesday.

Ioannou’s visit to Athens is the final leg of his tour of Europe, during which he has spoken with other EU counterparts about migration.

Following a meeting with Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan on Thursday, an agreement was reached to launch a joint factfinding mission operated by Cyprus and the Czech Republic to Syria, with the aim of designating parts of the country as safe.

On Wednesday, Ioannou had met with Danish counterpart Kaare Dybvad Bek, who said the time has come to examine the real facts in Syria to allow states to carry out returns under specific and strict conditions.”

He added that he recognises the “enormous pressure on Cyprus due to the massive flows of migrants of Syrian origin.”

Ioannou can also rely on the support of Austria, which had thrown its weight behind Cyprus’ plan to declare parts of Syria as safe in March.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, a spokesperson for the Austrian interior ministry said Minister Gerhard Karner had told the European Union’s justice and affairs council that “deportations to safe areas in Syria should be possible again in the medium term.”

Ioannou’s tour of Europe came at a timely moment, given the EU’s redesign of its migration system – a move which Ioannou described as a “step in the right direction”.

At the same time, he noted that there is still progress to be made to satisfy him and the government, saying “our request remains that the relocation of asylum seekers is mandatory and not voluntary.”

However, support across the bloc is not unanimous. A spokesperson for Sweden’s EU Affairs minister denied the claim that they had also supported Cyprus’ plan to declare parts of Syria safe to the Cyprus Mail, describing it as a “misunderstanding”.

“We have heard similar proposals raised but it is not something that Sweden has taken a position on,” the spokesperson added.

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