Split Cyprus defends razor wire to halt migrant crossovers

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Razor wire is seen along the southern side of a U.N buffer zone that cuts across the ethnically divided Cyprus, near village of Astromeritis, Tuesday, March 9, 2021. The government of ethnically split Cyprus has come under fire over a decision to lay razor wire along a section of a U.N. controlled buffer zone it said is needed to stem migrant inflows from the island's breakaway north, with critics charging that the "ineffective" scheme only feeds partitionist perceptions amid a renewed push resume dormant peace talks. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – The government of ethnically split Cyprus came under fire on Tuesday over a decision to lay razor wire along a section of a U.N. controlled buffer zone.

It says the move is needed to stem migrant inflows from the island’s breakaway north, but critics say the plan is “ineffective” and only feeds the fear that partition will be cemented, amid a renewed push to resume dormant peace talks.

Crews began laying the razor wire on the southern side of the buffer zone some 30 kilometers (19 miles) west of the capital, Nicosia, earlier this week.

Critics, including the communist-rooted opposition party AKEL, said the move only leaves “huge question marks since it implies the delineation of borders and entrenching our homeland’s division.”

Farmers authorized to cultivate land inside the buffer zone initially voiced some concern over access to their plots, but the government said it would act to ease access.

Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Turkish Cypriots in the island’s northern third declared independence nearly a decade later, but only Turkey recognizes it. Cyprus joined the European Union in 2004, but only the southern part, where the internationally recognized government is seated, enjoys full benefits.

Cypriot government officials say the country has the highest per-capita number of asylum applications in the European Union. Most of those asylum-seekers cross a porous buffer zone after making their way to the north, often by commercial flights.

AKEL spokesman Stefanos Stefanou acknowledged Cyprus is having to deal with large migrant inflows but insisted that “methods implying borders between states” isn’t the way.