Seeking Asylum in Cyprus (Part 1) – Why Is Refugee Support there?

We get asked a lot – why are people coming to Cyprus? What journeys are people taking and what are they finding on arrival?

Alongside arrivals from nearby Syria and Lebanon, there has been an increasing number of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa (primarily the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Cameroon), as well as parts of Asia such as Pakistan and more recently Afghanistan.

This is reflected in the demographic profile of the 350 people we serve every week our Dignity Centre.

Although the journey is itself a very busy and precarious route to Europe, exploitation awaits many who arrive in Cyprus.

Over four articles we will try to delve deeper into the scale of the movement and specifically answer these key questions: why are people travelling from Africa taking this risk? How are they making the journey? And what can they expect upon arrival?

First, a little history

A popular destination for holiday makers, Cyprus is perhaps more well known for its climate and culinary history than its conflict with Turkey in the 1970s which led to the North and South of the island being divided by a 180km-wide buffer zone or ‘Green Line’.

This led to the northern third of the island coming under Turkish control. The whole island, however, is considered EU territory. It is worth noting that the ‘Turkish Republic of North Cyprus’ is only officially recognised by Turkey.

Cyprus has a large and growing number of asylum seekers

In recent years the narrative around migration in Europe has to a large degree focused on migrants travelling to Greece, Italy and France but according to the EU commission Cyprus is now the country with the highest number of asylum seekers per capita in the EU.

It has also seen an increase of 112% of irregular arrivals in 2022 compared to last year, mainly via the Turkish-controlled area to the north of the island.

Click here for Part 2 – ‘Why are they making the journey?’

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