Cyprus new route for migrants prepared to “die at sea”

Syrians, their country at war since 2011, make up the largest group of refugees in Cyprus

For 26 hours, Mustafa hid on a ferry from Turkey to Cyprus, joining thousands of other refugees now looking to the divided Mediterranean island as their gateway to the European Union.

In two years, the number of first-time asylum applications in Cyprus has more than tripled, rising from 730 people at the beginning of 2017 to 3,015 at the beginning of 2019.

Mustafa is among those who are optimistic about their prospects on the island. “As soon as I leave the camp, I’ll find work and rebuild my life,” he told AFP.

The number of refugee and migrant arrivals to Cyprus is low compared with those in Italy or Greece.

But now the island nation has the highest rate of refugee arrivals of any EU country relative to its population, eight times higher than in France, according to the European statistics office Eurostat.

This does not include refugees or migrants living in the breakaway so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TNRC)”, divided from the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus, with a population of less than one million, since 1974.

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