Greek Cyprus ‘prefers’ max 300 Orthodox Christian migrants

Greek Cyprus ‘prefers’ max 300 Orthodox Christian migrants

Greek Cyprus ‘prefers’ max 300 Orthodox Christian migrants

AP photo

European Union member Greek Cyprus said Sept. 7 that it would be willing to take in up to 300 migrants fleeing upheaval in the Middle East under new EU quotas, but would prefer them to be Orthodox Christians. 

The Mediterranean island of about 1 million people is the closest European state to Syria, which lies about 100 kilometers to its east. But Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said its size meant that its reception capacity was limited. 

An EU source said Sept. 7 that the EU executive had drawn up a new set of national quotas under which member states would take in a total of 160,000 asylum-seekers to be relocated from Italy, Greece and Hungary. 

Hasikos, responsible for migration policy, told state radio: “We have already stated that 260, a maximum of 300, people can be taken in ... everyone [EU member states] should pitch in. We would seek for them to be Orthodox Christians ... it’s not an issue of being inhuman or not helping if we are called upon, but to be honest, yes, that’s what we would prefer.” 

He said it would be much easier for Christians to adjust to life on the island. 

The EU executive has drawn up a new set of national quotas under which Germany will take in more than 40,000 and France 30,000 asylum-seekers it says should be relocated from Italy, Greece and Hungary, the EU source said Sept. 7. 

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is due to unveil new proposals on Sept. 9. EU officials have said he will propose adding 120,000 people to be relocated on top of a group of 40,000 the commission previously proposed relocating. 

Member states rejected such binding national quotas in June but since their voluntary offers have fallen short of 40,000 while the numbers of people arriving in Europe has surged, the commission, backed by Germany and France, is pushing for them. 

While Germany has said it is willing to take in many refugees and President François Hollande confirmed France’s readiness on Sept. 7 to take in its share under the European Commission’s guidelines, the quotas could see renewed resistance from governments which say they cannot cope with such numbers. 

Poland, for example, has said it might handle about 2,000 people under proposed EU pilot schemes for easing pressure on southern frontier states. But under the commission’s new proposal, Warsaw would be asked to receive close to 12,000. 

Hungary, whose prime minister, Viktor Orban, has been a vocal opponent of national quotas, will in fact now see other EU states take in 54,000 of those people who have surged into his country. Under an earlier proposal for the relocation of 40,000 people, these would have come only from Italy and Greece. 

Leading the quotas among the 120,000, of which 50,400 would come from Greece and 15,600 from Italy, Germany would, if EU leaders agree to the scheme, be asked to take in 31,443 and France 24,031. Britain has an exemption from EU asylum policy, as do Ireland and Denmark. Dublin volunteered to take in 600 people under the earlier scheme to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers. 

The source said the commission also planned to put Turkey and all the non-EU states of the Western Balkans on a new list of “safe” countries, whose citizens would face accelerated reviews of asylum claims to speed deportation for most of them.