13,000 people have applied for asylum in the small island republic of Cyprus since the beginning of the year. Public Radio (RIK) reported today that the majority of them crossed the border from Turkey. According to EU statistics, Cyprus records by far the largest number of asylum applications per year in relation to the size of the population. That is why the government in Nicosia has repeatedly asked for help from the European Union.
The radio, quoting the Ministry of the Interior in Nicosia, stated that people who do not have a valid residence permit constitute, in the meantime, about four percent of the population of the southern part of Cyprus.
About 700,000 Greek Cypriots live in the southern part of the island and about 180,000 foreigners are in Cyprus with valid papers.
Entry via the northern part of the island
Since 1974, Cyprus has been divided into a larger, mostly Greek part in the south and a Turkish Cypriot part in the north. Only Turkey recognizes Northern Cyprus as a state. Due to the de facto partition of Cyprus, the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus exercises effective control only in the southern part of the island.
According to the Cypriot authorities, most people who apply for asylum in Cyprus are brought from Turkey by smugglers to the north of the Mediterranean island, which is occupied by Turkish forces. They are then directed south through poorly guarded parts of the dividing line.