Cyprus suffered massive population shifts following the Turkish military occupation of the northern third of the island in July 1974. Some 120,000 Greek Cypriots fled from the occupied area to the south, and about 60,000 Turkish Cypriots fled in the opposite direction. As of the 1989, some 611 Greek Cypriots lived in the north, mostly on the Karpas Peninsula, and about 100 Turkish Cypriots remained in the south.
In the 1990s, asylum seekers originated mainly from the Middle East and North Africa. Until 1998, a yearly average of 70 to 100 people applied for refugee status. This figure rose significantly in the second half of 1998 due to the arrival of approximately 150 asylum seekers who arrived in Cyprus by boat from Lebanon.
Some asylum seekers are detained as illegal entrants or over-stays. While acknowledging the difficulties in dealing with the increased number of asylum seekers, the UNHCR has encouraged the government to find alternatives to detention. The Republic of Cyprus allows recognized refugees to remain with work permits while waiting for resettlement to a third country; however resettlement is a lengthy process, and many refugees never obtain employment. Local integration is to be the preferred solution after adoption of the new refugee law.
In 2000, the net migration rate was 3.9 migrants per 1,000 population, down from 8.4 a decade earlier. There were 49,000 migrants in that year, of which only 100 were refugees. The government views the immigration level as too high.