by Kyriacos Jacovides*
One of the biggest and most serious problems Cyprus faces now, and one of the biggest challenges, is the issue of migration. Our country must deal with disproportionate flows of migrants, both in relation to its size and resources and in relation to its population. Already, migrants make up more than 6% of the country’s population. Most of them enter the areas under the control of the Republic of Cyprus from the occupied territories, which are being exploited by Turkey to instrumentalize this humanitarian issue through the systematic and organized flow of migrants into the free areas. It is indicative of the fact that migrants from the Congo leave their country one day for Turkey, and after one or two days, under the guidance of their traffickers, in cooperation with the occupying forces, cross the buffer zone and enter the free areas.
We recognize and respect our international obligations. We fully respect human rights, but, unfortunately, our country has become an attractive destination for irregular migration because of the benefits and the long time it takes to process asylum applications. Most irregular migrants, who arrive in our country, are not eligible for asylum and do not need international protection. A person who travels by air from the Congo to Turkey, and from there to the occupied territories, is almost certainly not persecuted, or in danger, in his or her own country. If they were persecuted, they would probably not be allowed to leave, and if they were to leave secretly, they would go to a neighboring country. At the same time, a student who comes to Cyprus from India, or Pakistan, on a student visa, cannot apply for political asylum on the grounds that he/she is in danger in his/her own country.
In his program, independent candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, has specific proposals for addressing the problem, with the creation of a Deputy Ministry of Immigration, Asylum, and Integration. This Deputy Ministry will house all the services involved for better coordination and efficiency. An immediate priority is to strengthen surveillance along the ceasefire line with new technology that can be funded by the EU to curb migration flows. As regards the surveillance of our seas, the more active involvement and expertise of FRONTEX will be requested, as well as the provision of additional vessels.
Examination of asylum applications will be carried out in a faster and more efficient way, as will the swift voluntary return or deportation of non-eligible migrants. To achieve this goal, Nikos Christodoulides proposes that the Deputy Ministry of Migration, in cooperation with the Legal Service, modernize the relevant legislation on immigration, on the basis of the International Conventions, the European acquis, but also the new facts and challenges that we have to face as a state. At the same time, it proposes to increase the number of asylum examiners to process an additional 3000 applications per month and to reduce their number. To this end, the possibility of cooperation with the Pancyprian Bar Association will be considered to appoint lawyers, and experienced members of the judiciary, who will hear the numerous applications alongside the judges of the International Protection Court, after consultation with the Supreme Court. The review and any appeal process should be completed within a short timeframe. Persons whose applications are clearly unfounded will be completed within 3 weeks and returned to their home countries as soon as possible. This will reduce government costs in terms of benefits, housing, and necessities.
Nikos Christodoulides also proposes the design and implementation of two National Action Plans, aiming at a) the promotion of voluntary and forced returns (deportations) of both irregular migrants and asylum seekers whose applications are rejected, with the assistance, inter alia, of the International Organization for Migration and FRONTEX and b) integration measures for legally residing third-country nationals (economic migrants and beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers).
All recipients of the Minimum Guaranteed Income to beneficiaries of International Protection, will take part on a daily basis in activities aimed at their smooth integration into society and the labor market. The activities involve learning the Greek language and employment in crafts and small businesses, with the costs not being borne by the employer.
Mr. Christodoulides’ program aims to prevent ghettoization in certain areas and to house a small number of foreign nationals where there is a need for labor. This will facilitate their integration into the local community, as the number will be smaller in each community. These are some of Nikos Christodoulides’ suggestions for dealing with the migration issue. The problem is not solved with public relations trips and the erection of a wall from one end of Cyprus to the other but by planning and substantial measures that will pay off almost immediately. Nikos Christodoulides knows and wants and can solve this hot problem.
* Kyriacos Jacovides is a member of the Press and Communication Team of independent Presidential candidate, Nikos Christodoulides.