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Seeking Safety in Cyprus, They’re Stuck in Island’s U.N. Buffer Zone

Seeking Safety in Cyprus, They’re Stuck in Island’s U.N. Buffer Zone


Nearly 30 asylum seekers are caught within the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus and the internationally acknowledged south amid a crackdown by the Cypriot authorities on undocumented migration following a steep uptick in Syrians arriving from Lebanon.

The teams — 13 individuals from Syria and 14 from elsewhere within the Middle East, plus Africa and Asia — are in numerous places within the buffer zone, which extends about 112 miles throughout Cyprus, a Mediterranean nation that may be a member of the European Union, and bisects the capital, Nicosia. They arrived within the space, often known as the Green Line, on foot from the occupied north.

If the migrants return to the north, an space that covers a few third of the island and is acknowledged solely by Turkey, they face deportation, as a result of the administration there has no authorized infrastructure for offering asylum. Crossing into the buffer zone from the occupied north would additionally represent a criminal offense of trespassing beneath that administration and could be prone to result in their deportation.

President Nikos Christodoulides of Cyprus mentioned final week that the authorities there would supply migrants at the moment within the buffer zone with humanitarian help however wouldn’t allow them to enter the south for concern of setting a precedent. “We won’t permit the creation of a brand new route for unlawful migration,” he advised reporters final Tuesday.

As a member of the European Union, Cyprus is answerable for regulating entry into the bloc, and Konstantinos Letymbiotis, a authorities spokesman, mentioned final month that the nation would “proceed its efficient supervision alongside the size of the buffer zone.”

But an official from the European Commission, the E.U. government arm, mentioned on Tuesday that member states had been obliged to permit requests for asylum, even within the buffer zone. The fee’s spokeswoman for residence affairs, Anitta Hipper, mentioned in a press release that “the likelihood for any individual to use for worldwide safety on a member state’s territory, together with at its border or in a transit zone, is established in E.U. legislation.”

The migrants within the buffer zone crossed into it in two teams over the previous three weeks, in accordance with Emilia Strovolidou, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee company in Cyprus, who expressed concern about their destiny amid sweltering temperatures which are forecast to exceed 100 levels Fahrenheit this week.

“These individuals left their international locations to search out security and a greater life, and now they’re trapped,” she mentioned. “And now we have a warmth wave forward.”

One of the kids within the group, a 13-year-old boy, was transferred to a hospital in Nicosia after struggling “psychological issues,” and cases of dizziness and nausea from the warmth are each day occurrences, she mentioned.

Toilets and showers have been arrange, Ms. Strovolidou mentioned, and the migrants have been provided with tents and meals by help staff and United Nations peacekeeping forces, who’ve been stationed within the buffer zone because it was arrange in 1974 after the island was successfully partitioned between its Turkish and Greek communities.

But the migrants can’t reside indefinitely in tents in the course of a demilitarized zone, Ms. Strovolidou famous, including that the United Nations company had pressed the Cypriot authorities to grant them asylum.

Thousands of Syrians have left Lebanon this yr as that nation suffers acute financial hardship and tensions rise over neighboring Israel’s navy marketing campaign in Gaza. And worldwide help for Syrians, whose nation has been mired in civil conflict for over 13 years, has dropped as newer conflicts have drawn the world’s consideration.

In mid-April, President Christodoulides mentioned that Cyprus was freezing the processing of asylum claims by Syrians amid a pointy rise in arrivals from Lebanon. More than 2,000 undocumented migrants reached the nation by sea within the first three months of the yr, in contrast with 78 in the identical interval final yr, in accordance with Cypriot authorities figures.

The freezing of asylum processing has left greater than 14,000 Syrians in Cyprus in limbo, a lot of whom have been ready for a response to their asylum functions for greater than a yr, in accordance with Ms. Strovolidou.

Most are entitled to meals and shelter in Cyprus, although they don’t have the fitting to work. Under the April determination, any who’ve returned to Syria prior to now 12 months by way of the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus now not have rights to worldwide safety and face deportation.

The Cypriot authorities have additionally despatched boats to patrol the realm between Cyprus and Lebanon. And when Mr. Christodoulides accompanied Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, on a go to to Lebanon in early May, the European official pledged help of 1 billion euros, or $1.08 billion, to assist Lebanon’s financial system and crack down on individuals smuggling.

Those actions have helped curb arrivals to Cyprus by way of the ocean route, however seem to have prompted extra exercise throughout the Green Line, which in flip prompted the Cypriot authorities to assign extra border guards to the buffer zone.

Migrants have been stranded within the buffer zone in earlier years, however not in such numbers, in accordance with help staff. In one occasion in 2021, two Cameroonians remained trapped within the buffer zone for seven months till being relocated to Italy after a go to by Pope Francis to Cyprus.

Ms. Strovolidou famous that migrants who handle to cross into the south are accepted at state amenities and appealed for assist for these within the buffer zone. “They don’t know what’s occurring or how lengthy they’re going to be caught there,” she mentioned. “They’re in limbo.”

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