ATHIENOU, CYPRUS (AP) – Turkey “has much to gain” if it works with the European Union (EU) to stem migrant arrivals from its airports and shores to the ethnically divided Mediterranean island of Cyprus, a top EU official said yesterday.
European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said he’s hopeful Turkish authorities will show the same degree of cooperation on curbing migrant arrivals to Cyprus as they did on helping the EU deal with a Belarussian “hybrid attack” of pushing migrants across its border into Poland.
“Look, Turkey, as all other of our neighbours, must understand a very simple thing: that on the migration issue, they have much to gain if they work with Europe instead of working against Europe,” Schinas said.
Schinas will travel to Turkey next month for talks to assess ways in which migrants reach Cyprus’ breakaway north, either through flights from Istanbul or by boat from the country’s southern coast. Some 85 per cent of migrants who reach the north slip across a United Nations-controlled buffer zone that severs the island along ethnic lines.
The EU official spoke after touring several frequently-used migrant crossing routes along the buffer zone. The island’s division came in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union
with Greece. Cypriot officials have accused Turkey of deliberately channeling migrants to the island’s north.
The buffer zone isn’t recognised as an EU external border and authorities have refrained from building any walls. But officials say they will employ “high-tech measures” to curb buffer zone crossings.
“What I see here today along the Green Line is shocking, it’s a completely different perception of the problem than seeing it from a distance,” said Schinas, adding that Cyprus with its limited resources has to shoulder an “extremely large, disproportionate” burden.