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UN Chief Upbraids Cyprus’ Handling of Refugee Asylum Seekers

NICOSIA – After reports three Cameroonian asylum seekers were stranded in a buffer zone in the capital Nicosia, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the government should adhere to procedures to insure their rights.

Two of them were among 48 saved by Pope Francis during his visit to the island, taking them back to the Vatican but only after they had been stuck since May in the area that divides Cyprus, with Turkish-Cypriots occupying the northern third since unlawful 1974 invasion.

They were refused access to asylum procedures “during repeated attempts to present themselves to the police at the Ledra Palace checkpoint,” one managing to get across, said The Cyprus Mail.

“Despite emergency admission to the hospital of the Cameroonian female asylum seeker on October 9, 2021, access to asylum procedures was again denied and the individual was pushed back to the buffer zone upon being discharged from the hospital facilities,” the UN said.

Many asylum seekers cross from the occupied side and Guterres, who took part in failed reunification talks in July 2017 at the Swiss resort of Crans-Montana said the two sides should work together on the issue.

The “situation of asylum seekers and refugees across the island, as well as the issue of access to asylum procedures in accordance with international law, continued to be a challenge during the reporting period (June to December) and is of serious concern to the United Nations,” his office said.

“While appreciating the challenging regional context as well as the high volume of arrivals in Cyprus in relation to the size of the population, I must recall the critical importance of full adherence to international legal norms in the handling of asylum seekers and refugees, wherever they may be found,” the report also said.

Citing data from Cyprus, his office said that 80 percent of irregular migrants arrived through the buffer zone, a phenomenon likely driven by “pushbacks at sea and at official crossing points by the Republic of Cyprus.”

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