Italy government

Pope will help bring migrants from Cyprus to Italy, government says

Nicosia, Cyprus – Pope Francis is arranging the transfer of a number of migrants to Italy from the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, where he begins a three-day visit next week, a government official said Thursday. Cypriot government.

Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos told The Associated Press that the Vatican was making arrangements with Cypriot authorities. There are no details yet on the number of migrants who will leave the island or the logistics of their trip since the pontiff will travel to Greece immediately after his visit to Cyprus.

The Vatican spokesman did not immediately respond when asked to confirm that the pope would indeed bring migrants back to Italy or otherwise arrange their travel out of Cyprus.

The ITA Airbus 320 that takes the Pope and the Vatican delegation from Rome to Nicosia on Dec. 2 will not visit Greece on the second leg of the trip, according to the ITA press office. This could suggest that any transfer of migrants from Cyprus to Rome could in fact happen without the pope on board, as he is due to travel to the Greek capital of Athens on December 4 on a different plane.

The pope made headlines in 2016 when he brought a dozen Syrian Muslims back with him on his flight back to Rome after a trip to the Greek island of Lesvos which is home to a large refugee camp. immigrants.

Cyprus said earlier this month it would seek European Union approval to stop processing migrants’ asylum applications amid a surge of new arrivals the country says it is unable to cope with. face.

The Cypriot government is also urging the EU to relocate a number of asylum seekers living in Cyprus to other member countries of the bloc and to conclude agreements with third countries to take back their citizens whose asylum application has been rejected.

Cypriot authorities say that in the first 10 months of this year alone, migrant arrivals have increased by 38% compared to the whole of 2020. Of the 10,868 new arrivals, 9,270 crossed a buffer zone illegally controlled by the United Nations from the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north to seek asylum. in the internationally recognized south.

Asylum seekers make up 4% of the population in the south of the island, four times the average for other EU frontline states.

Migrants say conditions at a reception camp just outside the Cypriot capital Nicosia are deteriorating as it currently houses nearly double its maximum capacity of 1,200 people.

Schadrach Mvunze, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said what he and others at the camp want is a place where they can live in peace, whether in Cyprus or elsewhere.

“Cyprus have taken us in… If they can’t take us in, they can even send us maybe to France, Canada, England,” Mvunze told The Associated Press, who visited the camp on Thursday. . “They can disperse us all over Europe to make us more comfortable.

Nigerian Daniel Idu, who crossed the breakaway north to seek international protection in the south, said all he was asking for was a chance to lift his aging mother and young son out of dire poverty.

“If I have the opportunity to meet the pope, I will only ask for one thing and that is to settle here and probably have a better job to support my family,” he said. he declares.