Migrant smuggling is a global concern that demands our immediate attention, Minister of Justice and Public Order Anna Koukkides Procopiou said on Tuesday, adding that a country deeply affected by this phenomenon, is Cyprus.
The Minister was speaking at the 18th CrimEx and 2nd EMJnet meeting of the Euromed Justice Program which is being held in Larnaca and is hosted by the Ministry of Justice and Public Order, together with the Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus. The meeting is attended by legal experts and professionals in the field of Criminal Justice and delegates come from various countries of the Mediterranean region but also from various European Union countries.
Migrant smuggling, the Minister said in her welcoming address, is not merely a regional issue, “it is a global concern that demands our immediate attention, not only for the legal complexities faced by judicial authorities when investigating such cases but also due to its humanitarian side”.
The Mediterranean region, due to its geographical proximity to Africa, the Middle East, and Southern Europe, has been a hotspot for this illicit activity, she noted, adding that organized criminal groups are profiting from the people’s desperation and recalled tragic incidents, such as boats capsizing leading to loss of life.
Referring to Cyprus, the Minister said that it is a country that is deeply affected by this phenomenon.
“Cyprus has become a hotspot and desired destination for illegal immigrants seeking asylum and a way into the European Union”.
She explained that since the illegal invasion of Cyprus in 1974 by Turkey and the ongoing occupation of more than 36% of the island’s territory by the Turkish army, organized Criminal Networks operating in the smuggling of migrants are taking advantage of the fragile political situation.
Organized Criminal Groups, she said, gather immigrants, from various countries from the Middle East and Africa, into mainland Turkey, and are then pushed into the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.
This, she noted, is achieved by transporting the immigrants, through the Turkish-occupied areas, who are then facilitated to cross, from the buffer zone, into the free territories and apply for asylum from the authorities of the Republic.
The Minister referred to the immense obstacles faced and the challenges encountered by the police and judicial authorities in Cyprus for combating this crime.
Concluding, she said that discussions in the meeting will focus on the sharing of experiences, insights and the proposal of solutions to combat migrant smuggling.