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Cyprus military base migrants given asylum ultimatum

Published 09/11/2015

A total of 115 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Cyprus from Lebanon (AP)
A total of 115 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Cyprus from Lebanon (AP)

Migrants camped at a British military base in Cyprus have been formally told they face deportation if they do not accept asylum on the island.

A total of 115 migrants came ashore at the RAF's Akrotiri base on October 21 after crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Lebanon.

Letters have now been handed to the migrants telling them they "face removal to their place of origin" should they choose not to claim asylum in Cyprus, a Government spokesman said.

They have been given a week to set out why they should not be sent back, the spokesman confirmed, after officials stressed the British base will not be allowed to become a "new migrant route" to the UK.

A Government spokesman said: "We have said that those migrants who do not claim asylum could face removal to their place of origin.

"We have now formally notified the migrants who have not claimed asylum that we do intend to remove them.

"We have been clear with the migrants on the options open to them and they have also had advice from the UNHCR (the UN High Commissioner for Refugees).

"The UK Government will not allow a new migrant route to open up to the UK."

Thirty-eight of the 115 migrants have now handed in written applications for asylum in Cyprus, the spokesman added.

Ministers said the UK Government has an agreement with the Cypriot authorities to hand over the travellers, many of whom had fled the bloody civil war in Syria.

Lebanese authorities have also confirmed they will accept the return of the migrants who set off from the country.

The Ministry of Defence has previously acknowledged the situation was "frustrating" for the migrants who are housed at a temporary camp near the Dhekelia military base. A series of disturbances have been reported recently as they wait for decisions on their status.

Mobile phone footage purportedly filmed inside the camp showed a man apparently trying to hang himself, another being given treatment after an act of self-harm and protesters claiming "we are people, not animals". Tents have also been set alight.

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