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EU states back Cyprus on Syria’s safe areas reclassification

migrants, larnaca, larnaca port, irregular migrants
Migrants at Larnaca port (Photo: Tom Cleaver)

Around ten EU member states are in agreement with Cyprus regarding the reclassification of certain areas in Syria from unsafe to safe, according to sources cited by the Cyprus News Agency on Friday.

Nicosia plans to host a conference from May 15-18 on the issue, aimed at pressuring the European Commission to make this reclassification.

The same sources denied any allegations of pushbacks of migrant boats.

This development follows President Nikos Christodoulides’ announcement on X that the island would no longer process asylum requests from individuals arriving from Syria.

Meanwhile, the proposed solution for arrivals from Lebanon involves supporting Lebanon and advocating for Syria’s reclassification as a safe country.

“The approach to migration has always been humanitarian,” the competent sources told the Cyprus News Agency.

They highlighted the Czech Republic’s initiative for a joint mission with Cyprus to Syria, aiming to gather evidence for identifying safe areas within the country.

Addressing concerns about individuals providing false information regarding their origin, the sources mentioned measures in place to verify such claims.

For the first time last January, departures, almost 1,200, exceeded arrivals (737), the same sources reported. They added that 70 per cent of asylum seekers were students from African countries, and the government has largely managed to effectively address arrivals from sub-Saharan countries by conducting information campaigns in those countries, determining a list of safe countries, pressuring Turkey to better control airports, increasing asylum application examiners, and linking the ministry of interior’s system with that of the ministry of labour, welfare, and social insurance so that once an application is rejected, applicants stop receiving benefits.

Presently, 100-200 people from African countries come to Cyprus each month. In comparison, around 1,800 people had arrived in December 2022.

Regarding the approximately 30,000 Syrian refugees currently in Cyprus, the same sources noted that they apply for political asylum but are entitled to supplementary protection status as refugees because they come from an unsafe country, and all are approved. They noted that those who receive supplementary protection status have the right to work and are entitled to Minimum Guaranteed Income.

Despite Cyprus being perceived as a less desirable destination compared to Italy, migrants choose it for its shorter and more affordable journey – €3,000 compared to €7,000. Despite the shorter distance, several dead bodies have washed up on the island’s coasts since the start of the year, underscoring the perilous nature of the migration routes.

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