Bases to cover cost of asylum seekers, UK minister tells MPs.
By Angelos Anastasiou
PROCESSING asylum requests filed by refugees and migrants arriving on British Bases soil in Cyprus is conducted by the Republic of Cyprus authorities, but covering the cost burdens the bases, State Minister for the Armed Forces Penny Mordaunt told the House of Commons on Friday.
In response to a question by shadow Secretary of Defence Maria Eagle in connection with "discussions the department has had with the Cypriot authorities about who has responsibility for the safety and well-being of refugees arriving at RAF Akrotiri", Mordaunt cited the 2003 memorandum of cooperation between the Sovereign Base Area Administration (SBAA) and Cyprus.
She noted that the SBAA "remain responsible for the safety and well-being in the Dhekelia transit facility until they are passed over to a Republic of Cyprus reception facility".
"If they are granted asylum they will be free to live and apply for work permits in the Republic of Cyprus and have the same rights as if they landed directly into the Republic of Cyprus," Mordaunt said.
"The SBAA has the obligation to meet the costs incurred by the Republic of Cyprus in handling the claims and supporting the migrants whilst their cases are being heard and, if they are successful, for up to one year."
However, she noted, a different protocol applies for refugees and migrants who do not claim asylum.
"If a migrant does not claim asylum, the SBAA as the territorial administration of this Overseas Territory remains responsible for their safety and wellbeing whilst detained pending deportation," she explained.
A second question raised by Eagle was what steps the Defence Secretary is taking to deal with further refugees arriving by sea at RAF Akrotiri.
"There is no evidence the migrants were intending to arrive in the Sovereign Base Areas," Mordaunt replied.
She noted that the arrival was the result of engine failure in the boat carrying the migrants and refugees off Akrotiri's shores.
"The SBA police maritime unit is conducting increased patrolling of the waters within its jurisdiction, using enhanced navigational aids, including a 24-hour radar capability," she said.
"The Cyprus Operational Battalion are providing additional manpower for base security. Security is also supported by RAF Search and Rescue helicopters from 84 Squadron based at Akrotiri."
Further, Mordaunt stated, the Republic of Cyprus has "indicated it has increased their maritime patrols in their adjacent territorial waters".
"If a boat is in distress in SBA territorial waters the SBAA has a duty under international law to provide aid and assistance to protect lives," she added.
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