Migrants Seeking Safety in Cyprus Are Stuck in U.N. Buffer Zone

By The New York Times (Asia, Middle East) | Created at 2024-06-11 12:48:28 | Updated at 2024-06-17 00:32:01 5 days ago


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Nearly 30 people who hoped to seek refuge in the European Union nation are in limbo after trying to cross from the Turkish-occupied part of the island. Many are Syrians who left Lebanon.

A United Nations vehicle at a gate on a road surrounded by trees.
Peacekeepers last week in the Green Zone between the internationally recognized south of Cyprus and the Turkish-occupied north. Nearly 30 asylum seekers are stranded in the zone.Credit...Petros Karadjias/Associated Press

Niki Kitsantonis

June 11, 2024, 8:44 a.m. ET

Nearly 30 asylum seekers are stuck in the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus and the internationally recognized south amid a crackdown by the Cypriot authorities on undocumented migration following a steep uptick in Syrians arriving from Lebanon.

The groups — 13 people from Syria and 14 from the Middle East, Africa and Asia — are in different locations in the buffer zone, which extends about 112 miles across Cyprus, a Mediterranean nation that is a member of the European Union, and bisects the capital, Nicosia. They arrived into the area, known as the Green Zone, on foot from the occupied north.

If the migrants return to the north, an area that covers about a third of the island and is recognized only by Turkey, they face deportation, because the administration there has no legal infrastructure for providing asylum. Crossing into the buffer zone from the occupied north would also constitute a crime of trespassing under that administration and would be likely to lead to their deportation.

President Nikos Christodoulides of Cyprus said last week that the authorities there would not permit the migrants to enter the south for fear of setting a precedent. “We will not allow the creation of a new route for illegal migration,” he told reporters last Tuesday.

Although Mr. Christodoulides said his country would provide those currently in the buffer zone with humanitarian aid, he said that Turkey was responsible for allowing people to reach the occupied north of Cyprus from Syria and elsewhere.

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