Schengen committee visits Cyprus to look at illegal immigration problems
By Patrick Dewhurst
The Cyprus Mail
November 14, 2009
CYPRUS may host the new European Asylum office to counter illegal immigration, according to an Italian Parliamentary committee that visited Cyprus this week
The committee, set up to monitor the Schengen agreement, yesterday concluded a two-day visit to learn more about illegal immigration in Cyprus.
The visit was conducted as part of an agreement between Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Malta to develop an integrated strategy to counter illegal immigration. During the visit, the delegation met with House President Marios Garoyian, Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis and members of the foreign ministry.
Margherita Boniver, committee President, highlighted recent developments in the EUs illegal immigration strategy.
The EU has now started to listen to what our problems are, and is taking the matter of illegal immigration seriously. It realises southernmost frontiers cannot just be a matter for individual southern states. It has begun to provide more directives, for example on resettlement and burden sharing.
Boniver added that the EU has established the EU asylum office and the Frontex agency, which coordinates the operational cooperation between Member States in the field of border security.
Reporting on her findings, Boniver said We have completed bilateral visits with Spain, Greece and Malta, and based on a steady stream of intelligence, the problem seems particularly acute for Cyprus.
Asked about the problem of people illegally entering from the north Cyprus, Boniver said, The pursuit of criminal organisations is the most important issue.
This is firstly an issue for EUROPOL and FRONTEX. After that it is a matter of applying political and diplomatic pressure, and oblige Turkey to do its duty to prevent illegal border crossing.
Regarding the possible entry of Cyprus into Shengen, Committee Vice President Ivano Strizzolo said At the end of our visit, we understood that the first priority is the resolution of the Cyprus Problem.
It is also in the interests of Italy to solve the problem, because even though Cyprus is small, its geography makes it important. The EU must now help further resolution of the Cyprus problem through further integration. It cannot leave southern countries to deal with this alone