NICOSIA – Twelve migrants from Cyprus were taken to Italy after a visit to the island earlier from Pope Francis who said he would arrange for the transfer of 50 of them in a humanitarian gesture.
“We would like to warmly thank Pope Francis and the Holy See for this symbolic gesture and anticipate it will be a step towards substantive solidarity by other (EU) member states towards the Republic of Cyprus,” the Interior Ministry said, reported Reuters.
The island has largely escaped large-scale incursions of refugees and migrants who mostly have gone to Greece after first arriving in Turkey, fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands.
Many of those who reach Cyprus cross over from the Turkish-Cypriot occupied northern third onto the side ruled by the legitimate Greek-Cypriot government that’s a member of the European Union.
Cyprus, which is the closest EU member state to the Middle East, says arrivals so far this year are up 38 percent compared with the whole of 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, the news agency report also added.
During a previous visit in 2016, Pope Francis left the Greek island of Lesbos which is the favorite choice of refugees and migrants and took 12 Syrians back with him.