Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Tuesday insisted Cyprus’ handling of the migrants currently stuck in the buffer zone “followed the correct procedures”, instead pointing the finger towards the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

Dozens of migrants have been stranded in the buffer zone for weeks. The migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Cameroon attempted to cross to the Republic’s territories via the north since their arrival in two separate groups in the last two weeks of May.

Authorities have refused to grant them access to asylum procedures and they are currently stuck in the buffer zone.

“They [the stranded migrants] need to have their papers in order,” he said on Trito. “We are simply following Green Lines regulations,” he added, explaining that police spotted the migrants and under the current regulations, refused them entry into the Republic’s territory.

Responding to Unficyp criticising the conditions for the migrants inside the buffer zone as dire, he said that there is an on-call doctor and ambulance, which respond to all necessities and emergencies.

He also reiterated what he told Astra on Monday, namely that tents were placed in the buffer zone two days before the migrants’ arrival, hinting that Unficyp might have already been aware of their potential arrival.

However, the UN on Tuesday described the claims as “false and misleading”.

“UN peacekeepers found the asylum seekers inside the buffer zone and provided tents and humanitarian assistance only after they were refused entry and left stranded,” they said.

At the same time, he also said that, should the migrants currently stranded in the buffer zone make their way into the Republic’s territory, their asylum applications will be processed and they will be transferred to the Pournara reception centre, adding that this is the standard government’s policy.

“Last May, 220 migrants entered the Republic’s territory from the buffer zone, and they were all transferred to Pournara. I don’t know why people think it would be different in this case,” Ioannou said, adding however that the buffer zone is now heavily monitored by police presence.

Ioannou also insisted that the responsibility of the situations lies with the Unficyp and UNHCR, both of which “allowed the migrants to remain in the buffer zone instead of returning them to where they came from.”

“I don’t understand why Cyprus is being accused by the UN, specifically by the head of Unficyp Colin Stewart, of trapping the migrants in the buffer zone,” Ioannou said, adding that he has not yet discussed the situation directly with Stewart.

Last week, the UNHCR said that it is “alarmed” by the safety of migrants trapped in the buffer zone, after two weeks of being forced to stay there and being denied procedures to apply for asylum.

According to an UNHCR announcement, despite being provided with food, water, clothing, and basic facilities by Unficyp with UNHCR’s support, “those in the buffer zone are living in precarious conditions in tents exposed to extreme temperatures exceeding 40 degrees C in recent days.”

“This situation requires urgent action. As we have underlined in communications with the government of the Republic of Cyprus, ensuring effective access to asylum procedures and adequate reception conditions is an obligation under international refugee law,” the UNHCR’s European region’s director Philippe Leclerc said.

However, Ioannou on Tuuesday rebuffed all the accusation moved to the administration in regard to the handling of migrants.

“The reduced number illegal migrants making their way to Cyprus in the past months are proof of the fact that we are on top of the situation, we do not accept lessons,” Ioannou said.