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Increase of illegal immigrants in Cyprus due to Turkish occupation
2005-05-11 17:11:35

Nicosia, May 11 (CNA) --- The number of illegal immigrants in Cyprus has increased a lot in the past two years, primarily due to the arrival of immigrants to the southern government controlled areas of the Republic through the northern Turkish occupied part of the island, where the Cyprus Police are prevented from exercising their jurisdiction.

''According to a report by the UN High Commission for Refugees, Cyprus is one of the first countries that immigrants prefer comparably. In 2004 applications for political asylum have increased by 499%, making Cyprus the first country on the list on centesimal percentage'', Chief of Cyprus police Tasos Panayiotou said today.

Addressing the 27th Capital Policing Europe Conference entitled ''Illegal Immigration'', that takes place here 11 - 13 May, Cyprus Police chief said that if this increase continues, Cyprus could face financial and social problems, and he called on European countries to take immediate measures against this trend.

Opening the conference, Minister of Justice and Public Order Doros Theodorou said that the main wave of illegal immigrants comes through the occupied part of Cyprus, noting that illegal migration through the government controlled areas is almost non existent.

The conference is attended by EUROPOL officers, the European Union, the United Nations as well as representatives from other national police forces.

''The main wave of illegal immigrants comes through the occupied areas, either on a visa granted by Turkey to citizens of third countries, particularly Muslim countries, or by an organized network of illegal entrants,'' Theodorou explained.

He said that after EU pressure, an operation took place in occupied Cyprus that led to the arrest of 30 so-called police men and other members of organized networks for illegal migration.

"Since then, there has been a reduction in the number of illegal immigrants but we have not managed to abolish the visas that Turkey grants to citizens of third countries to visit the occupied areas and then cross over to government controlled areas and later to Europe'', he said.

The Minister urged participants to do their utmost so that their governments increase pressure on Turkey in order to abolish the granting of visas and to limit this phenomenon.

Chief of Cyprus Police Tasos Panayiotou said that illegal immigrants come to Cyprus from Asian and African countries ''mainly through points that are not guarded, along the ceasefire line, that divides the island to Turkish occupied and government controlled areas''.

In 2004, 2,558 migrants arrived in Cyprus mainly from Bangladesh, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Turkey and the same year deportations reached 2,800.

Regarding political asylum seekers, in 2003 there were 4,032 applications submitted while by the end of 2004 the applications reached 9,284.

''Strict measures are being taken by the police. Migration through air and sea in the past two years has all but disappear, whereas illegal migration through the Turkish occupied areas has increased'', Panayiotou noted.

Nicosia Mayor Michalakis Zampelas said EU borders must be kept inaccessible to those who channel illegal immigrants to the European countries.

''Our aim must be to establish a single system to receive immigrants in European society and to secure conditions of a dignified life until they return to their countries'', he said.

Nicosia Mayor also referred to the efforts to create conditions for reinforcing the bridges of communication between both communities in Cyprus, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots, especially in the capital Nicosia, the last divided city in Europe.

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