We are alert and vigilant in order to safeguard security in the Republic of Cyprus and managing migration flows in the way the European Treaty defines today, Cyprus’ Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said today.
Speaking to reporters at the Presidential Palace following an extraordinary meeting on Migration, Nicos Nouris said that “a meeting has just been concluded under the President of the Republic on the forthcoming EU Foreign and Home Affairs Councils which he is expected to discuss the problem that has arisen with Greece and the issue of increased migration flows observed to the Republic of Cyprus.
A review has been carried out and specific instructions have been given by the President of the Republic, both regarding the positions that Ministers participating in these Councils should make and the fact that specific measures are being taken to manage the migration flows in Cyprus, with the aim and purpose of expediting the processing of asylum applications and expediting returns procedures, so that our country can reduce the number of economic migrants, so that we can offer what we can to those who really need it.
Today the numbers are prohibitive for us to be able to implement a sound policy and that is why a very specific strategy is being drawn up that will be put before the President of the Republic in additional detail and will be announced very soon”.
Asked what this strategy entails, he said that “a specific process of strengthening the infrastructure that Democracy has in Purnara and Kofinos is already underway. I have given instructions and the reception areas have been strengthened numerically and we are also looking at the fact of increased flows, especially lately, which are creating this alertness and we are alert in the sense that we want to preserve security in the Republic of Cyprus and manage these applicants in the manner specified by the European Treaty”.
Respondents also said that “the President of the Republic had a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of Greece, in which, in addition to the support of the Republic of Cyprus in the efforts that Greece is making, the actions of the two Governments that will appear at the Council of Ministers were also coordinated and therefore our positions will be tabled”.
Invited to say whether the measures announced by his predecessor were ultimately not satisfactory, the Minister said that “the situation of the migrant is a changing situation and therefore there is a need for flexibility on the part of the Republic and alertness in its management and dealing with. Every day, depending on the problem and the way migration management is evolving, the Republic must respond in exactly the same way, and I want to assure you that it is in this way that we are politicizing and rolling out processes so that we can deal with, to the degree of our own abilities, the problem that we face.
But one huge problem we want to highlight and raise within the broader policy issues that the EU itself has to implement is to set up a pan-European asylum policy in which the EU will play a role in negotiations with secure third countries, in which immigrants must be returned. This is something that Cyprus by itself is extremely difficult to achieve. It is for this reason that it is our own claim and fortunately it is the claim of the frontline countries, so that as an EU, we can now negotiate with the various third countries the return of these people to their home countries”.
In another question, he said: “I have invited to Cyprus and accepted the invitation from Commissioner Johansson and Vice-President of the Commission Mr Schinas to discuss and see for themselves the problem and how it is developing in Cyprus.
But what needs to be understood is that time does not work in our favor but against us and we must move fast and I assure you that we are moving in that direction every day”.
Asked if the Republic has the right to stop immigrants from entering the free areas, Mr Nouris said that “at the legal points of entry of the Republic of Cyprus it certainly has the right to prevent entry, but you should know, and we are knowledgeable of the fact that there are international bodies and legislation that gives specific rights to immigrants as well. We have no disposition to mislead or break the law. What we want everyone to understood is just one thing. The fact that the small Cypriot Republic of 850 thousand people has certain strengths and can withstand a certain number of immigrants. Today we have unprotected children in the Republic, we have refugees in the Republic. Those ones we want and we can care for and receive them.
What the EU has to understand first of all, but also the international community, is that the number of economic migrants can no longer be tolerated simply because it has exceeded our capacity because we do not have the infrastructure to welcome these people and they are the ones who we want to send back.
We are not going to return anyone who returns to a country where his life will be in danger. We want to return those people who come from the so-called safe third countries and who are simply moving to the Republic of Cyprus to find a better future. They would be welcome if the Republic had this opportunity. We have crossed this line a long time ago, and I would like to remind you that, while the other frontline countries, including Greece, have increased migration flows they have never exceeded 1% of the population, while the Republic of Cyprus has reached 3,8%”.
Responding to a question, he said that “the picture we have today tells us that we have 12,000 people who have already been offered international protection, we have 17,000 asylum applications pending, and we have 4,000 applications before the international protection court. They all make up close to 32,000 and together they make up 3.8% of the Republic’s population”.
Asked what will be done to fill the “gaps” in the green line, he said “all that needs to be done is being done and will continue to be done. But it is also a matter dealt with by the Ministry of Defence and because it is a sensitive issue I do not want to comment further”.
Invited to comment on information of a boat that is currently approaching Cyprus carrying migrants and also asked whether there were arrivals of migrants in recent days, Mr Nouris said that “last week we had arrivals that numbered 223 people, 153 today and 70 before Saturday and there is additional information that a small boat has been spotted in Famagusta and is being monitored by the Republic’s Services to see where it will end up”./ibna