NICOSIA – With most refugees and migrants fleeing to the European Union skipping past Cyprus, a rise in asylum applications on the island has officials concerned enough to track what’s happening.
While the applications fell 54 percent in the EU – most are being made in Greece, overrun with more than 64,000 refugees and migrants, most from Turkey – after Europe closed its doors to them, they have jumped 43 percent on Cyprus in the last year, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said.
“It is a trend that concerns us and we will monitor it,” he said, the Cyprus Mail reported. There has been anti-refugee sentiment on the island as well with complaints that only Christians should be taken in.
Cyprus has approved 57 per cent of the applications, a considerably higher rate than the EU average of 39 per cent, he added.
Cyprus has also given protection status to around 7,500 people – 1,065 were granted refugee status and over 6,500 got subsidiary protection, most running away from Syria’s long-running civil war where the government has used unlawful gas on civilians and gotten away with it. Some 2,300 asylum applications are still pending.
“Beyond the numbers, something that we ought to be concerned with is the trend of migration flows,” Petrides said.
From September 2014 to now, some 1,400 people arrived in Cyprus on boats while a large number of asylum seekers came through the Turkish-Cypriot occupied territory on the north, seized by Turkey in an unlawful 1974 invasion.
August saw a 61 per cent rise in applications compared with the previous year, he said, a figure that’s significant in such a small country, he said, enough to make “Cyprus rank fourth in proportion to its population – 894 applications per one million people – among the EU 28 after Malta, Greece, and Luxemburg, with not much difference from the top three,” Petrides said.