Cyprus official says proposal to return refugees to Syria advances in EU

QAMSHLI, Syria (North Press) – The Cypriot interior minister said on Friday a government proposal to return Syrian refugees by marking certain areas safe within the country is making progress among member states of the European Union.

Minister Constantinos Ioannou said after talks with European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas that it’s the “conviction of several states that the time has come to collectively dare” to talk about the possibility of assigning safe zones 13 years after the start of the Syrian war.

Ioannou stressed it is necessary that the EU reaches a collective decision on Syria as the Israeli-Hamas war might affect other states in the Middle East.

Cyprus is calling on Europol and the EU’s border protection agency FRONTEX to reinforce patrols along the EU’s border on the sea to intercept and prevent immigrants from arriving.

“The repatriation of Syrian nationals under strict conditions would decongest our migrant reception facilities and contribute to the successful integration of migrants,” Ioannou said.

Official figures indicate the rate of immigrants from Syria and Lebanon arriving to Cyprus by sea increased 355 percent, with 4,259 arriving in 2023 compared to 937 in 2022.

Roughly one million Syrian asylum-seekers and refugees live in the EU. Germany alone hosts around 59  percent of them. Across Europe, Syrians have usually been provided with international protection status. However, procedures tend to be long, which is why many Syrians have taken dangerous routes to reach the continent.

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Syria remains the largest displacement crisis in the world with over 12 million Syrians displaced.

By Stella Youssef