The Turkish-occupied northern part of Cyprus is being used as an entry point for migrants and refugees, as smugglers take advantage of the island’s partition into Turkish and Greek-Cypriot halves.
The proximity to the Middle East and the lack of strict controls in the occupied North have made Cyprus a new entry point of choice for migrants, who then cross to the Republic of Cyprus, which belongs to the E.U. Living in the Republic of Cyprus then gives the migrants access to the European mainland.
Exacerbating the situation is the fact that the borders of central and Northern Europe are now mostly closed to refugees and migrants. As a result, many of these individuals are now attempting to enter through Greece or Italy.
According to the Cyprus Mail, approximately 8,000 asylum applications are pending currently in the Republic of Cyprus. It takes between three to five years to process a claim, including appeals.
The E.U. European Asylum Support Office is deploying 29 case workers and interpreters to process the applications, and has given Cyprus almost 40 million euros ($45.5 million) for migration management for the period between 2014-2020.
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades told the European Parliament recently that other E.U. countries need to take in some of the migrants after closing its borders to them.
He said Cyprus is now becoming a key destination for them, which places an enormous strain on resources and creates “excessive pressure” on the island.