British forces in Cyprus move migrants, deny UK asylum chances
The 114 migrants who landed at a British air base on Cyprus last week were moved to another military facility Tuesday, officials said, warning that the island would not become a conduit for immigration.
The migrants came ashore on two fishing boats Wednesday at the Royal Air Force base at Akrotiri, from where British planes are carrying out bombing raids against the Islamic State group in Iraq.
The group, which included Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians, was made up of 28 children, 19 women and 67 men.
"We can confirm that the migrants have been moved to a temporary transit facility to provide more suitable accommodation," a British Forces Cyprus spokesperson told AFP.
They were moved from a warehouse at Akrotiri to another facility at Dhekelia garrison along the coast in Larnaca.
On Saturday, the military said some of them had asked for asylum, but declined to say whether that was for settlement in Britain or in Cyprus, and their fate remains in limbo.
A spokesman said Tuesday: "The UK government has made clear it will not allow a new migrant route to open up."
That echoed a statement at the weekend, which said: "RAF Akrotiri is not a route through which people will be able to get to the UK."
Officials could not confirm if the asylum seekers would be handed over to Cypriot authorities to process their applications, but Nicosia has shown no willingness to take any of them.
Cypriot immigration officers have conducted interviews at Akrotiri to decide on the next steps.
The British defence ministry said Wednesday the migrants should be handed over to the Cypriot authorities in line with a 2003 agreement for them to "take responsibility in circumstances like this".
Before that deal was signed, migrants landing on the bases had been left in legal limbo.
In 1998, a ramshackle fishing boat crammed with 75 migrants landed at Akrotiri, which lies in one of two base areas over which Britain retained sovereignty when Cyprus won independence in 1960.
Seventeen years on, some of them are still living at Dhekelia, after repeated appeals for asylum in Britain were turned down.
© 2015 AFP