Thirteen migrants – including unaccompanied children – are in the buffer zone, in addition to the fourteen who have been staying in tents in the area between Aglantzia and Geri for the past two weeks, bringing their total number to twenty seven.

In a statement to CNA, UNHCR office spokesperson in Cyprus, Katja Johanna Saha confirmed the new arrivals of migrants overnight, referring to “several unaccompanied children.” She said that these thirteen people remain stranded in the UN Buffer Zone “despite having approached the police officers and communicated to them their wish to apply for international protection.”

Saha stated that “UNHCR wishes to remind that as foreseen in the national and the EU Asylum legislation asylum-seekers in Cyprus territory must be promptly referred to national asylum procedures where they can have their application registered and lodged, as well as to designated reception arrangements.”

She also reported that while provided with food, water and sanitation, hygiene and clothing facilities through UNFICYP and in cooperation with UNHCR, the asylum seekers are living in tents and are exposed to extreme weather conditions without access to dignified living conditions.

“Rejection to refer asylum-seekers stranded at the buffer zone to national asylum procedures entails a risk of chain refoulement to their countries of origin if they return to the occupied northern part of Cyprus due to the absence of an asylum system there, which often leads to the criminalization of asylum seekers for irregularly crossing into the UN Buffer Zone and the issuance of deportation orders against them”, she noted.

Saha added that access to the asylum procedures and dignified living conditions in line with the principle of non-refoulement and the right to seek asylum as per international, EU and national law should be always ensured.

Four relevant Ministries of the Republic of Cyprus, namely the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Interior, Defence and Justice, are handling the issue of migrants who crossed from the Turkish-occupied areas in the buffer zone and remain there.

A competent government source told CNA that the position of the Republic of Cyprus on this issue is determined by “the Green Line Regulation, the status of the buffer zone and our international obligations for refugees.” There is also cooperation with the peacekeeping force in Cyprus for the needs of these people.

According to the same sources, meetings have been held on the issue and more will be held.

Leave a Reply