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The interior minister criticises the UN over migrants in the buffer zone


Regarding the numerous migrants who have been left stuck in the buffer zone for weeks, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou criticised the United Nations peacekeeping force (Unficyp) on Monday.

Ever since their arrival in two distinct groups during the final two weeks of May, the migrants, who came from countries including Afghanistan, Syria, and Cameroon, have attempted to enter the Republic’s borders through the northern border.

They are currently stuck in the buffer zone, where UN organisations are providing them with food, medicine, and shelter in the form of tents. Authorities have refused to allow them access to the asylum procedures.

Ioannou claimed in remarks on Astra that the tents the refugees are residing in were set up there prior to their arrival. He seemed to wonder about Unficyp’s intentions, without specifying details.

Speaking with the Cyprus Mail, Interior Ministry spokesperson Margarita Kyriakou confirmed that this was the account of events that the administration had understood to have transpired.

The claims contradict earlier claims made by Unficyp and the UNHCR that the migrants were found by peacekeeping forces, that the Republic of Cyprus’s officials were notified, and that the migrants were then denied access to government areas and asylum procedures.

In addition, Kyriakou referred to the Green Line law, claiming that when police saw the migrants, they were prohibited from entering the Republic’s territory by these regulations.

Unficyp reiterated the terrible humanitarian conditions the migrants are staying in while Cyprus struggles with extremely high temperatures, but expressed no desire to comment on the accusations.

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Ioannou further claimed that the UN was unaware of the number of refugees who are stuck in the buffer zone. He was presumably referring to a UNHCR statement from last week that stated the number was 31, as opposed to previous claims that it was 27.

Ioannou’s remarks seem to be consistent with President Nikos Christodoulides’ firm stance from Friday, when he declared that Cyprus would not take orders from anyone over how to handle the migrant problem.

He added that cooperation, not public interventions, is the way to address such issues and criticised those who believe that putting pressure would achieve anything.

The New York Times was informed last week by Annita Hipper, home affairs spokesperson for the European Commission, that “EU law establishes the possibility for any person to apply for international protection on a member state’s territory, including at its border or in a transit zone.”

The government’s rejection, which was justified by the Green Line regulation, has drawn criticism from UN authorities, who informed the Cyprus Mail that the government’s handling of the situation is illegal under international law.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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