Migration in Cyprus from war-torn countries in the Middle East is on the rise as other European countries close their borders.
Cyprus is experiencing a surge in migration as other nations in Europe shut their doors to refugees and asylum seekers.
The one-million population country is receiving nearly 6,000 asylum applications a year, which represents the largest per-capita number of claims out of any European country.
“it’s absolutely necessary to find a holistic solution...which means distributing asylum seekers through an automatic relocation mechanism to countries throughout the EU,” stated Constantinos Petrides, Cyprus’ interior minister.
By August this year, applications were 55 percent higher compared to 2017, according to the interior ministry.
One family of migrants from Iraq who’s original plan was to attempt to enter Germany found that it was cheaper to travel to Cyprus, “The smugglers told it was much cheaper to get to an was still in Europe. We paid US$2,000...for the four of us to come,” said Rubar Abass, an Iraqi migrant.
Smugglers cognizant of the tightening of borders in major European countries are sending migrants to Cyprus which is creating a “migrant crisis” in the country.
The migrants arriving in Cyprus move directly from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Syria, but also from overflowed refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon.
Cyprus is an island divided in two by conflict. The north comprises the Turkish-occupied side and the south belongs to the Republic of Cyprus. The country is divided by 180.2 km UN-patrolled cease-fire line. The UN dividing like is highly porous offering smugglers plenty of opportunities to move migrants to the north of the border.
The island is only 161 kilometers from Syria and it is closer to Baghdad than to Berlin.
For this reason, many migrants feel disappointed when they arrive in Cyprus and find out they are not too far from home, “Many are surprised to find out where they actually are. When we tell them, they are shocked, stunned, completely speechless. Nearly all arrive expecting they’ll be within walking distance of a job in Germany,” stated Elizabeth Kassinis, the executive manager of Caritas, a humanitarian organization working with refugees.