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Refugees Heading for Europe Steer Clear of Unwelcoming Cyprus

With thousands of refugees and migrants still frantically trying to reach Europe this year – largely through Italy and the Greek islands – they are avoiding Cyprus, which is near the Turkish coast from which many depart.

Only 273 of the 73,189 who arrived by sea have landed on Cyprus, the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) said June 13.

Greece, meanwhile is housing more than 64,000, including some 14,000 on islands where they were sent by human traffickers Turkey allowed to operate until reaching a swap deal with the European Union, which has been suspended because of the overwhelming number of asylum applications being filed with Athens.

According to the latest IOM report on humanitarian emergencies, almost 85 per cent arrived in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

The total numbers continue to fall after more than 211,000 arrived in Mediterranean countries last year, including 345 on Cyprus.

The island is not part of the EU’s Schengen area which allows visa-free travel between countries, making it less attractive for refugees, many fleeing the nearby civil war in strife-torn Syria. The EU has closed its borders to them and many countries which promised to take scores of thousands in total have reneged, drawing only a rebuke from European officials.

To leave Cyprus, a refugee or migrant needs travel documents, which are unlikely to be given which means they have to stay on the island with little to no hope of moving on. Cyprus also has tougher asylum policies than most countries and offers little aid to refugees.

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