Helping Asylum Seekers in Northern Cyprus
Asylum seekers will continue making their way to Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus, regardless of whether they are aware of its unrecognized status. The United Nations Refugee Agency and the European Union, in particular, must take concrete steps to offer them meaningful protection.
NORTH NICOSIA – On May 24, 2021, three Cameroonian asylum seekers left the north of Cyprus in an attempt to reach the south. They were denied protection, triggering widespread international condemnation, and were stranded in no man’s land for nearly seven months after the Cypriot authorities refused to recognize their asylum request.
Their predicament stemmed partly from the island’s de facto division since 1974. Crossing the United Nations-controlled Green Line separating the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus (RoC) and the Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus (recognized only by Turkey) is considered illegal if not authorized, even for those seeking asylum.
The RoC authorities argued that granting the three Cameroonians asylum would encourage others to cross the Green Line, and have accused Turkey of encouraging an influx of refugees from Syria and Sub-Saharan Africa. But the reality is more complex.