The Brief: Migration issues in Cyprus grow, Margaritis Schinas nominated as commissioner

The Brief: Migration issues in Cyprus grow, Margaritis Schinas nominated as commissioner
By Shoshana Dubnow
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Cyprus has over 15,000 asylum seekers in the country, but only a refugee centre for 250 of them. Watch the Brief from Brussels for more information on how the situation is spiralling out of control.

Desperate migration situation in Cyprus


Cyprus has been a country divided since 1974. The country has recently been in the news for its fight with Turkey over gas and oil drillings.

However, what is less known about the country is its migration predicament. The number of asylum seekers has continued to increase since 2016. Cyprus now has around 15,000 asylum seekers, making up about 4% of the country's population. They receive 1,000 new applications every month. 

Interior Minister Konstantinos Petridis expressed the peculiarity of the situation in Turkey due to the unclear borders of its occupation in northern Cyprus.

"Turkey has signed the deal with the EU according to which it is obliged to offer asylum to Syrian refugees," he said. "They don't apply that to Cyprus because of the political anomaly in Cyprus and Turkey's own refusal to recognize Cyprus."

Rasid is from Kirkuk, Iraq. He fled his hometown over a year ago with his family. He initially entered Turkey, and then paid 5,000 euros to a smuggler to take him from Turkey to the northern part of Cyprus. From there, he passed the green line and entered the free region.

His first application seeking asylum was rejected.

"We have no licence from the government to do this job and wherever we go they reject us because they are afraid of the government," he said. "There is a big penalty if they accept us as employees."

Among the 15,000 asylum seekers in Cyrpus, only 250 of them utilize a refugee centre in the village of Kofinou. The thousands of others use the money they have to find a place to live and work, hoping they aren't caught. Arman, a refugee from Cameroon, said it's a stressful existence.

"There are people here that make it three, four, five years without being called," he said. "And this is very dangerous when you don’t have money."

Arman said the abandoned place where refugees from Cameroon sleep has horrible conditions — no electricity, no running water, and in the winter, no heating. 

Petridis said the EU is not doing enough to help Cyprus, and as a result, the country is paying national consequences for other countries' actions.

"The fact is that the flows now are through the Eastern Mediterranean and the asylum seekers’ profile has changed," he said. "We have many applications from African countries that were never coming to Cyprus. And that has to do with other European countries’ national policies."

Margaritis Scinas nominated as Greek commissioner

The Greek government nominated the European Commission's chief spokesperson Margaritis Schinas as Greece's next European Commissioner on Thursday.

If approved, he'll move from holding daily press briefings to leading policy decisions.

Previous Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras insisted on retaining the migration portfolio in exchange for supporting the Commission president-elect Ursula Von Der Leyen. The new government is believed to want an economy-related portfolio.

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