NICOSIA – Large European Union countries should do their fair share and accept more migrants from overburdened members that are the typical entry points into Europe, Cyprus’ interior ministry said Monday.
The ministry said in a statement to The Associated Press that the EU needs a more “balanced, holistic and integrated” approach to migration that includes moving people from the coastal countries that first receive them.
The ministry said Cyprus would adhere to its EU obligations, but that other nations do not realize Cyprus is among the places bearing the brunt of the influx.
Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides’ wants to address “the misperception inherent within EU circles that Cyprus is not on the frontline of the refugee inflow from Syria and other countries in the Middle East.”
According to EU statistics, Cyprus ranks fourth among the bloc’s 28 nations in the number of asylum applications per capita, behind Malta, Greece and Luxembourg. The island nation is located approximately 80 miles (135 kilometers) south of Turkey and about 100 miles (160 kilometers) from Syria.
Petrides said Cyprus has so far granted political refugee status to 1,065 people and another 6,500 were given ‘complementary protection’ — a status short of refugee that’s given to people who can’t return to their homelands.
Since Sept. 2014, 1,400 people arrived to Cyprus by boat while a “significant number” entered from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of the ethnically divided island. Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized southern part of the island enjoys full EU membership benefits.
“The overall numbers regarding migration inflows into Cyprus may appear small relative to the overall numbers in larger countries, but they’re in no way negligible when considering Cyprus’ geographical and population size,” Petrides said.
MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS, Associated Press