Cyprus deploys troops in UN buffer zone to stop influx of migrants

The government of the Republic of Cyprus justified the troop deployment stating that it was a necessary measure to stop the flow of migrants

December 13, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Cyprus anti-migrant patrols
United Nations buffer zone in Nicosia.

The government of the Republic of Cyprus has deployed joint police and military patrols along the United Nations Buffer Zone in Nicosia in order to halt the flow of migrants into the country. The move has evoked widespread criticism and been condemned by large sections of the Cypriot society. On Monday, December 9, the government justified its decision by claiming that this was a necessary step in order to counter the influx of migrants crossing over from this buffer zone which divides the ethnically split island.

The Progressive Party of Working People (AKEL), a leftist party in Cyprus, along with other progressive and social organizations condemned the government’s decision to launch join patrols in Nicosia’s old city.

AKEL’s Central Committee spokesperson, Stefanos Stefanou, said that “militarization and a police state do not enhance the sense of security among people, visitors and tourists in Nicosia’s old city. Nor is it in keeping with the character of the city to fill the area’s streets with security forces with their finger on the trigger. Neither does this climate, of course, help commercial activity and movement in the area. The scaremongering and exaggerations that are being spread about Nicosia’s old city have nothing to do with the reality there, which those who live and visit the area know better. Moreover, linking crime with the presence of people from other countries is not only not substantiated by crime statistics, but everywhere and always constitutes an essential component part of xenophobic propaganda.”

He added that “The conservative Democratic Rally (DISY)-led government in the country may want to copy other right-wing and far-right governments in Europe. They want to cultivate fear and insecurity among the people and then portray themselves as the force pompously imposing law and order, but refugees and immigrants cannot be part of the government’s communication tactics.” 

The 180 kms-long buffer zone that divides the island of Cyprus is narrowest at Nicosia city, where only a few meters separate the two sides. This has become relatively porous in sections where guard posts are no longer manned. Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded the north of the island in response to a Greek nationalist coup in Nicosia by those who supported union with Greece.