The Minister also said that the absence of a readmission agreement between the EU and Turkey intensifies problems Cyprus is facing, given that the vast majority of illegal immigrants arrive in the island’s northern Turkish occupied areas and are filtered through to the southern government controlled part of the country.
“We need to build capacity in both countries of origin and destination in order to formulate coherent migration policies, in a holistic way,” he told a conference on “Conflict, Conquest and Migration” organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society in the coastal town of Larnaca.
In his speech, Sylikiotis noted the theme of the Conference could not be more timely as one of the issues that is placed high on his agenda is migration and its management, since Cyprus faces particular migratory pressures.
Sylikiotis said that Cyprus, at the most south-eastern external border of the European Union and close to a politically unstable region, has to contend with too great numbers of illegal immigrants and asylum applicants. “Today, Cyprus is at the top of the list of EU member countries receiving asylum applications, in relation to its population size”.
Furthermore, he said, “Cyprus has rapidly transformed, from a country of origin, to a host country for legal migrants. This sudden change, as well as the particular political situation in Cyprus, have created great difficulties in managing the increased migration flows”, the Minister pointed out.
With a negligible exception, almost all illegal migrants, the majority of whom subsequently become asylum seekers, reach the areas of the Republic of Cyprus under the effective control of the government by initially entering illegally through the northern Turkish occupied territory of Cyprus, and then crossing the Green Line, Sylikiotis underlined.
The absence of progress in the negotiation of a readmission agreement of the Community with Turkey and the absence of willingness to cooperate intensifies these problems, he said. “It is only with the effective cooperation and drastic action of this candidate country that illegal immigration flows in our geographical area can be controlled”, he remarked.
Sylikiotis said that although Cyprus faces serious problems with illegal migration, this does not mean that it joins voices that do not differentiate between legal and illegal migration and which claim that migration, in general, is a source of problems and instability.
“We believe that migration should not be seen, in principle, as a threat or a destabilising factor to the economies of the recipient countries. On the contrary, we believe that it is a phenomenon that needs to be regulated. If supported by the right policies, it can be beneficial for development in both the recipient countries and countries of origin”, he said.
It is essential, he said, that these migration policies are based on a human rights approach.
The state, Sylikiotis said, should safeguard and guarantee these rights for every member of its society, with no prejudice whatsoever.
The Minister of Interior said that the challenges of managing migration are numerous and their successful address is for sure not an easy task. Through international cooperation and coordination of our policies, he added, “we can maximise the beneficial effects of international migration to development and minimise the negative ones. We need, however, to build capacity in both countries of origin and destination in order to formulate coherent migration policies, in a holistic way”.
He said that in order to overcome the negative consequences of migration for origin countries, effective voluntary return policies should be developed which will incorporate measures to improve economic prospects and employment in home countries. Also, ethical recruitment policies should be developed as a way to reduce “brain drain”.
Sylikiotis also said that the return of migrants to their home countries is not always an easy task especially in integration to the local societies and empowerment of migrants.
“What must be clearly understood and established is the need for the local communities as well as the governments to take all necessary measures and form all necessary institutional structures to integrate and include the migrants in the social and civic life”, he said.
The increase in the numbers of foreigners seeking employment in Cyprus in recent years has made clear that integration and migrant empowerment is essential, he said. In order to face the challenges created by migration flows, “Cyprus is putting forward a new Migration Policy that incorporates a specific integration policy and aims at the realisation that integration does not, in any way, affect the rights of the local population. On the contrary, if we fail to secure the human, labour and social rights of migrants, they will be brought against exploitation and social exclusion”, Sylikiotis said.
In addition, the Government of Cyprus attaches also great importance to the participation and the contribution of NGOs both in the formulation of migration policies and in the implementation level.
Sylikiotis stressed that the design and implementation of an integrated approach based on human rights to migration, social cohesion and development requires the improvement of the management of migration. “This improvement will not succeed to its maximum if the link between all of the above is not materialised in practice through the appropriate adjustment of our policies and strategies, which will clearly identify these links and take actions to exploit all the potentials available”, he remarked, adding that “this challenge falls on everyone of us”.
Financial Mirror, September 23, 2008