On 27.11.2019, the Council of Ministers decided, without any consultation with either the stakeholders concerned in Cyprus or with the European Union/ Commission, to proceed to the amendment of the Code for the implementation of the Regulation of the European Council (866/2004/ΕC) on the Green Line. According to this decision:
- All people passing through the line (including Cypriot citizens, hitherto not checked) will be checked.
- Unaccompanied minors not escorted by parents will not be allowed to cross unless they have written authorisation by their parents.
- No third-country nationals (TCN) with temporary residence permit, except family members of Cypriot or other European citizens, and with long-term residence permit, will be allowed to pass through the line.
- The passage of people will be permitted for humanitarian grounds, medical reasons, etc
- In addition, the Council of Ministers has decided to submit bills to the House of Representatives for imposing administrative fines (in monetary terms) to people using ports and airports in the areas not under the control of the government, without clarifying as to whether these fines will be imposed on everyone or only on TCN.
KISA is of the opinion that the government should have informed both Cypriot society as well as the EC for the proposed amendments to the Code for the implementation of the green line Regulation. It is not coincidental that the EC has already expressed the need for its approval of any amendments.
KISA believes that the decision to restrict and/or prohibit the crossing of legally residing migrants through the green line constitutes prohibited discrimination and is not permitted by the Council Regulation, which renders it a direct violation of the Regulation itself.
From a legal point of view, the government does have the right to impose universal checks of identity verification of persons passing through the line. However, as it has decided to apply the Regulation strictly 15 years later, it should do so after the setting up of the necessary infrastructe and required staff increases at the checkpoints so as to ensure people’s smooth movement. The immediate implementation of the above checks, without all the above, constitutes disproportionate restrictions and obstacles to the free movement of people through the line.
KISA also condemns the government’s attempt to connect, by using misleading and populist rhetoric, the amendments with the management of the rising number of asylum applications, irregular migration and security for domestic audience and impressing the public as, according to point 2 (d) of the decision, «third-country nationals … are not permitted to pass through the line … unless they apply for asylum». The proposed measures that the government has connected with the increasing refugee flows to Cyprus, due to the continuing wars in the area, cannot objectively speaking bring about the objectives pursued by the government (reduction of the refugee flows), as no one can restrict the right to asylum, which is a fundamental right according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.
Instead of the government asking for EU’s assistance and support to enable it to meet the severe pressures on the asylum system and the reception of asylum seekers in Cyprus, it will waste European and national resources on the green line checks and undue hassle of legally residing migrants as well as Cypriots at the checkpoints.
KISA is of the opinion that the new policy entails serious risks to the Cyprus question as, on the one hand, it hinders communication and contact between the areas controlled and not under the control of the government and, on the other, it turns the green line into a hard border, which leads to deepening the division of our country, when the objective of the Regulation is to facilitate free movement of people and cooperation between the two communities.
Finally, KISA points out that the inclusion of the Ministry of Defence in the Ministerial Committee for migration and asylum formalises the securitisation policy on migration and asylum, a policy that has contributed substantially to harbouring racism and the rise of extreme right and neo-nazi organisations in Europe.
KISA in cooperation with other civil society organisations intends to do all it can, including through reports/complaints to European and international organisations and agencies, against these new measures.