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19 June, 2024
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Cyprus eyes new measures amid migration challenges

Government mulls strategies as Syrian applications rise; seeks EU review of safe zones

Pavlos Neophytos

There may have been progress so far in the management of migration, according to figures released by the government these days, but this is mainly due to a sharp decline in the number of applicants from African countries, while at the same time the big "thorn" continues to be the flows from Syria, with applications increasing progressively, according to the Interior Ministry. This is why this issue was placed at the top of the list among the six additional measures decided to manage the migration issue at a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Wednesday.

In particular, and as "K" was informed, having in his quiver, firstly, the conclusion of the European Union Asylum Agency (EUAA), according to which two areas of Syria, those of Damascus and Tarsus, are assessed as safe now -at this stage a reassessment is underway, which may indicate other areas-, and secondly, the consensus on the issue among the Mediterranean Member States (frontline host countries), the Cyprus Ministry of Interior intends to make representations in early 2024 to discuss at European level the need to review the status of Syria and in particular the aforementioned areas. This will start with a letter to be sent to all EU ministers dealing with migration, with the aim of starting the discussion at the next Home Affairs Council and reaching the level of the European Commission.

According to the same source, if the status of these areas is reviewed, then the Republic of Cyprus will also have at its disposal the tool for deportations of Syrians, who arrive mainly by sea and whose management is difficult, given that their country is an unsafe area and they cannot return by any mechanism, with European and international conventions binding Cyprus. At the same time, the Ministry of Interior notes with concern that while they are granted subsidiary protection status, several travel back to Syria and subsequently come back to Cyprus, with the lingering question being how it is that someone who receives refugee status in another country, claiming that he is not safe in his country, travels back to that country and then comes back to Cyprus.

In addition to the measure related to the flows from Syria, the government announced that in order to manage the migration issue, the following additional actions will be taken:

1. To promote the tightening and doubling of the prescribed penalties for offenses related to the trafficking of irregular migrants.
2. To make representations to Interpol to strengthen cooperation with the competent authorities and exchange of information.
3. Establishment of a special unit within the Cyprus Police to combat illegal immigrant trafficking rings.
4. Pay benefits to asylum seekers through a prepaid card to ensure that the benefits are actually used to cover living needs.
5. Expedite Dublin Regulation procedures for the reunification of families in other European countries.

Another tool, on which the Republic of Cyprus had initially pinned its hopes for strengthening its efforts in managing the migration issue, is the Pact on Immigration and Asylum, which was voted on Wednesday by the European Parliament. In times of migrant crisis, relocations will be carried out and assistance will be given by other member states, while through the recognition of mandatory solidarity, it is envisaged that frontline host countries, such as Cyprus, in cases where there are disproportionate numbers of migrants, will be able to proceed with relocations. However, in a public statement, Interior Minister Konstantinos Ioannou did not hide his concern about the outcome of the vote, stressing that the ideal scenario would be for these relocations to be mandatory. "Unfortunately it is not, it is given the option to other member states such as, instead of accepting legal migrants to settle in their country, they can pay an amount set at €20,000 per person. We will have to see the mechanism exactly how it will work for about 100,000 people per year for all member states, how it will be shared between the states, and so on. For Cyprus, the ideal would be to make relocation compulsory because it is not a question of financial assistance since we already receive financial support from the Union as a country," Ioannou noted.

Margaritis Schinas: "I have personally intervened with both Turkish Airlines and Pegasus"

The Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, spoke to "K" about the support that Cyprus receives from the EU on the issue of migration. "It is not only monetary, it is not only the 250 to 300 million."


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