The blazing heat in Cyprus has increased concerns over the health and safety of a number of migrants stranded in the buffer zone for days, the UN warned on Wednesday, as the government later in the day sought to shift focus on smugglers.

“With rising summer temperatures in Cyprus, the 27 migrants are facing increasingly difficult conditions,” UN peacekeeping force (Unficyp) spokesperson Aleem Sidique told the Cyprus Mail.

Temperatures reached 42C in Nicosia, as the government issued an orange warning calling for a work stoppage for people working outdoors.

“We are concerned for the health and welfare of the asylum seekers, including many women, children, currently stranded inside the UN buffer zone.”

The government has so far refused the 27 migrants to enter the Republic of Cyprus and is denying them access to asylum applications.

Asked to comment, a government source said the state’s position has remained unchanged and it is in talks with Unficyp and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), as well as the Red Cross.

It has cited the Green Line regulation, which has raised eyebrows in UN circles that have told the Cyprus Mail the government’s handling of the matter violates international law.

Later in the day, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said Cyprus was in contact with the peacekeeping force to address humanitarian needs if requested.

“Any statements should not overlook the root cause and the perpetrators of this difficult situation in that the irregular migrants have found themselves in within the buffer zone. 

“After all, they themselves have described who and how they were guided, having passed through safe third countries before arriving in the occupied territories.”

An evident nod to smugglers, Letymbiotis’ statement also sought to address mounting criticism against the government’s stance, amid allegations it is going against national, EU and international law.

“Cyprus is fully aware of and respects its international obligations” including national and EU law, Letymbiotis said.

“That is why it continues effective monitoring along the buffer zone, in accordance with the Green Line regulation, as is our obligation.”

He underlined that “we are confident the peacekeeping force (Unficyp) will do what is necessary for the living conditions of these people given their particular circumstances.”

Siddique stressed that Unficyp is working closely with the UNHCR to provide immediate humanitarian assistance including food, water, shelter and medical assistance for the most vulnerable people.

Nonetheless “these people need access to asylum procedures as provided for under national, EU and international law.”

Three people so far have required hospital treatment.

The UNHCR has warned that the asylum seekers are living in tents and exposed to extreme weather without access to decent living conditions.

Underlying the government’s stance is rhetoric that if it allows these 27 migrants to seek asylum, then more may follow.

State sources told the Cyprus Mail that under the Green Line regulation, any third-country national wishing to enter the Republic requires a visa and necessary documentation, however many of the migrants lack the paperwork.

The government source did not wish to elaborate on the fact that asylum procedures operate under a different framework. They also did not comment on accusations that the current government stance violates EU and international law.

Hundreds of migrants crossed through the buffer zone in recent years, and have been allowed access to asylum procedures without issue, but for a few exceptions.

The migrants were spotted by UN peacekeeping forces in mid-May and over the weekend, who alerted the UNHCR and in turn informed the Republic of the migrants’ intention to seek asylum.

They have since been moved closer to a road closer to the Republic for easier access to humanitarian aid.