Holistic approach needed on migration, Cyprus says, not just cash

By Thomson Reuters Feb 12, 2024 | 6:57 AM

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Throwing money at irregular migration will not make it go away, Cyprus said on Monday, saying the EU needed to take a holistic approach and rethink a ban on deportations to Syria.

Cyprus has seen a spike in irregular migration in recent years, either by sea from neighbouring Syria and Lebanon, or via a now-closed loophole via a ceasefire line splitting the island.

“If we really want to deal with the migration issue its not through money, or actions to deal with the phenomenon itself. It has to be through assessing the root causes and cooperating with countries where migrants come from,” Cypriot President Nikos Christodoulides said.

Cyprus lies about 100 miles (185 km) west of Lebanon and Syria. Last year it saw arrivals more than quadruple from both countries, fanning fears in Nicosia of a surge if tensions in the Middle East engulf the broader region.

An EU member since 2004 and the closest to the Middle East, Nicosia wants the bloc to consider declaring parts of war-ravaged Syria safe, which would allow authorities to repatriate people arriving from there.

“I’m aware of the sensitivities around this,” said Christodoulides. “There are areas in Syria where we have to examine whether they are safe, and by extension, if migrants from those specific areas can be returned.

I don’t think its right for the EU not to discuss this,” he said.

(Reporting By Michele Kambas; editing by David Evans)