EU pledges to help Cyprus stem influx of refugees
European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said EU is ready to afford Cyprus assistance across the board to tackle the increasing flow of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria.
Cypriot Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said last week that immigration increased by 40 percent during the first six months this year, relative to the same period in 2017, with more than 4,000 people asking for asylum so far this year.
Avramopoulos said after talks with Petrides in Nicosia that EU will immediately send a team of experts to Cyprus to discuss ways to ease immigration pressure from Syria.
"Our assistance is on all levels: equipment, personnel, technical and financial," Avramopoulos said.
The Interior Ministry estimates that more than 5,770 people will arrive by the end of the year, compared to 4,599 refugees in 2017, when arrivals went up by more than 50 percent in comparison to the previous year.
Refugees arrive either by boat which sail from Turkey, Lebanon or Syria and by using the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus as a stepping stone.
Petrides said that Cyprus was now on the frontline and it was impossible for a country of its size to deploy disproportionate facilities to absorb the refugee pressures it was under.
"What we are seeking as a member-state is European solidarity in practice over a European issue that is impossible for us to handle alone," he said.
He said he explained to Avramopoulos that Cyprus, as an island, is at a disadvantage relative to other EU countries, as it cannot deny protection to people who sail in flimsy boats.
He asked EU to intensify talks with all countries neighboring Syria, like Lebanon and Jordan, and offer financial and technical help in return for them hosting higher numbers of refugees.
He also said that the influx of so many undocumented people presents security risks, as among those arrive there are people who may have been former fighters of Islamic State. ■