Five people in Paphos district were taken to a police station for questioning after immigration police officers raided a local hotel suspected of employing workers unlawfully.
According to the Cyprus News Agency, immigration police in Paphos district raided a local hotel on Wednesday morning following a brief on-site surveillance, with officers finding two foreign nationals working in the kitchen while three others were also apprehended, all on suspicion of illegal employment.
All five individuals were described as foreign nationals from Asian countries. It turned out that none of them had broken any immigration laws, but CNA reported they were all suspected of working without proper authorization documents.
A man in his early 30’s, who was spotted in the kitchen of the hotel, reportedly had an asylum case pending with the Republic of Cyprus, with his immigration status described as lawful but CNA said he did not have a work permit.
Another woman in her early 20’s, also working in the kitchen, had a student visa last year and according to CNA her college had provided a verification letter, citing delays in her program extension due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hotel owners have been lobbying the Cypriot government to ease visa restrictions on foreign students
Current regulations allow foreign students and asylum seekers under very specific conditions to work legally as kitchen assistants or cleaners in hotels, restaurants, and leisure establishments, provided they obtain an employment contract that also gets approved by the Labor Department.
Three others found in other areas of the hotel included a male in his early 20’s who had a pending asylum case and two other individuals who were appealing their cases after Migration had rejected their asylum applications.
Police did not confirm any arrests or share any details but local media said the hotel owner was expected to give a deposition at the Polis Chrysochous police station.
In the meantime, hotel industry officials told local media this week that workers in the hospitality industry were hard to find.
Neophytos Thrasyvoulou, the head of OSIKA - a Cypriot association for leisure facility owners - said earlier this week that workers were hard to find due to the pandemic.
The OSIKA official said many workers had gone back to their countries of origin due to inadequate compensation during pandemic restrictions.
Hotel owners have been lobbying the Cypriot government to ease visa restrictions on foreign students.
Up until recently, hotels in the Republic of Cyprus were not allowed to employ asylum seekers or foreign students from third countries.
But now foreign students from non-EU countries can work up to 20 hours per week on conditions during school session, which is part-time for immigration purposes, or work full time during summer vacation and school breaks.
But the issue of working on a contract has remained a grey area in the industry, as local trade unions and hotel owners have been at odds over a number of labor issues.