To start with, according to EUROSTAT’s official data, the Republic of Cyprus ranks first among European states in regards to the number of illegal immigrants. The flow of illegal immigrants is widely attributed to the geographical position of Cyprus, which is in the crossroads of Middle East and North Africa. Unfortunately, illegal immigration, its implications and extensions are rarely addressed in Cypriot press and Cypriot governments have diachronically failed to engage with the issue and encounter the negative impacts of this phenomenon. On November 2nd, several Cypriot non-governmental organizations (Pancyprian Anti-occupation Movement, Movement for Freedom and Justice in Cyprus and the Hellenic Resistance Movement), hosted an event which addressed illegal immigration, its origins and implications, in significant depth. Below, I sketch summarily the addressed issues regarding illegal immigration in Cyprus.

The role of Turkey: The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants entering Cypriot territory come through Turkey and Turkish-occupied areas on the island. According to Athena Arsalidou: “Around 99% of illegal immigrants, who arrive to Cyprus, come through Turkey and through the Green Line”. The Turkish-occupied area of Cyprus is a vast security gap, upon which the legitimate authorities of Cyprus do not maintain control since the 1974 Turkish military invasion. Former chief-lieutenant and Defense Minister of the Republic of Cyprus Phivos Klokkaris, argued that Turkey systematically channels the mass flow of illegal immigrants to the Republic of Cyprus. According to Mr. Klokkaris, Turkey channels 3.000 illegal immigrants from Anatolia every year. Some experts even argue that the flow of illegal immigrants can be parallelized with the phenomenon of colonialism which is conducted by the Turkish occupying forces and is considered as a war crime. Furthermore, Panos Ioannides, the president of the Movement for Freedom and Justice in Cyprus, argued that is within Turkey’s aims to create a Turkish-controlled minority in the government of Cyprus – controlled territory, which will be the first step towards the strategic control of the entire Cypriot territory.

Illegal immigrants and terrorist cells: Due to Cyprus’ proximity to the Middle East and North Africa, the Republic of Cyprus may soon be facing the danger of radical Muslim group formation, closely affiliated with states actively supporting international terrorism, like Syria or Iran. It has to be mentioned that Cyprus is a member-state of the European Union and actively engaged in counter-terrorism policies under the umbrella both of the European Union and NATO. The growing number of political refugees from Afghanistan, Sudan and Nigeria that seek asylum in Cyprus must receive the appropriate attention from the authorities of Cyprus. Thus, the Republic of Cyprus must aim at the close cooperation with the E.U and NATO in order to tackle any possible negative developments.

The role of Cypriot governments: Unfortunately, Cypriot governments have diachronically failed to tackle the negative impacts of illegal immigration. Cypriot governments have shown several weaknesses in regards to the republic’s coastline control and security. The Republic of Cyprus must proceed and make the necessary steps in order to clarify that illegal immigration is not solely a Cypriot problem, and seek the necessary help from the European Union. The author argues that Cypriot government must make explicitly clear to the European Union and consider the deployment of FRONTEX units that will enhance border control and security, following Greece’s recent paradigm.

Incidents of social unrest: The growing number of illegal immigrants involves the dangers of social unrest and increase crime rates. It is calculated that the 10 per cent of the government-controlled territory population consists of illegal immigrants. Immigrants coming from parts of the globe characterized by domestic turmoil like Sudan or Afghanistan are considered potentially destabilizing actors. Incidents like immigrant riots in the suburbs of Paris, or Afghan riots in Patrai – Greece command the appropriate attention and enforcement of radical changes on behalf of the Cypriot government.

To recapitulate, this article has addressed several issues concerning illegal immigration in the Republic of Cyprus. Cypriot decision makers must comprehend that Cyprus is a unique case-study, due to the fact that it is the easternmost frontier of the European Union. Thus, Cypriot state must enhance its cooperation with European Union’s mechanisms at all levels: intelligence sharing, border security and monitoring as well as the training of Cypriot security forces in order to prevent possible negative developments in the near future.


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