Migrant repatriations key to reducing overcrowding – CBS17.com

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Migrants stand outside the Pournara migrant reception center in Kokkinotrimithia, outside the capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday February 9, 2022. Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said Wednesday that the continued influx of migrants to the eastern Mediterranean island nation is creating conditions at the overcrowded reception camp that can at times escalate into violence. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The repatriation of migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected is key to easing overcrowding and reducing violence at a migrant reception camp, the Cypriot interior minister said Wednesday.

Minister Nicos Nouris told state broadcaster CyBC that 35 migrants were lightly injured in an altercation between rival groups of underage migrants at Pournara camp on the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia.

Nouris said Nigerian and Congolese youths housed in the camp attacked each other for a “totally insignificant reason” which started on the facility’s basketball court. He said riot police should be called in to restore order.

This incident was preceded the previous evening by further violence in which Nouris said a youth had threatened a police officer with a knife.

Cypriot authorities say the increase in migrant arrivals is pushing the small island’s ability to accommodate them to its limits. Some 13,235 new asylum applications were lodged last year, most of them rejected. Cypriot authorities say the absence of clear EU migration policies is hampering deportations.

Nouris said 85% of asylum seekers entered Cyprus from the breakaway Turkish north of the ethnically divided island and passed through a porous UN-controlled buffer zone to lodge their claims.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup aimed at union with Greece. Cyprus accuses Turkey of facilitating the flow of migrants to the eastern Mediterranean island nation.

The minister said the European Union agrees that Cyprus must take steps to stem the arrival of migrants through the buffer zone. Three senior EU officials, including Margaritis Schinas – vice president of the EU executive – will visit the island in the coming weeks to inspect conditions along the buffer zone.

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Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration.

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