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Cyprus Steps Up Dividing Line Patrols Amid Migrant Influx

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA - Joint police and military patrols are being launched along ethnically split Cyprus' dividing line to counter an influx of migrants crossing from the breakaway north, the country's interior minister said Monday.

Nicos Nouris told state broadcaster CyBC that the patrols will be on a 24-hour basis in and around the divided capital. The measure will be reviewed at the end of next month to gauge its effectiveness.

The minister said police officers are accompanying soldiers on patrols because military personnel aren't authorized to detain civilians. Additional, nightly patrols by elite police unit members will also be set in motion to bolster citizens' sense of security, Nouris said.

Cyprus' 180-kilometer-long, United Nations-controlled buffer zone is narrowest at Nicosia's medieval core, where only a few meters separate the two sides, and has become relatively porous in sections where guard posts are no longer manned.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Cypriot authorities say the country is a leader among European Union member states in the number of migrant arrivals relative to its population.

Officials say the vast majority of arrivals enter the country from the north and cross into the internationally recognized south to apply for asylum.