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Government achieves historic 50% drop in asylum applications

Cyprus tops Europe in returns, asylum applications halved

Source: CNA

There is a 50% reduction in the period March-October 2023 in new asylum applications compared to the 2022 corresponding period, the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday, noting at the same time that for the first time, the overall balance of arrivals-returns presents a positive picture, and Cyprus is now ranking in the first places among European states in absolute numbers of returns.

Preventing flows, speeding up the procedures for examination of asylum applications, safeguarding the existence of adequate reception infrastructure and increasing the number of returns are the pillars on which the Ministry of the Interior focuses for effective migration flows management, it said in a press release

Following its budget presentation before the parliament, the Interior Ministry points out that a series of actions have been implemented to achieve the goals, including the hiring of additional asylum application examiners, and Cyprus now employs more than double the number, namely a total of 82 people.

The Ministry said that as a result, there was a reduction in the time required to complete the application review process from 9-21 months to currently 1-3 months.

The Interior Ministry also points out that the authorities can now examine more than 2,200 applications per month, compared to 1,200 applications that were examined in the corresponding period last year.

Pending applications in October amounted to 26,700 from 30,350 last April. As regards new asylum applications, the Ministry said that a 50% reduction is recorded in the period March-October 2023 compared to the 2022 corresponding period.

Last year a total of 15,155 applications were submitted, compared to 7,673 this year. In addition, arrivals via the Green Line from sub-Saharan African countries have dropped by 75%.

It is stressed that for the first time, the overall balance of arrivals-returns presents a positive picture, and Cyprus is now ranking in the first places among European states in absolute numbers of returns.

This reduction, the press release reads, was made possible through the implementation of a series of measures, such as an information campaign in African countries (Congo and Nigeria), more intensive and better checks carried out on flights from Istanbul, in collaboration with Frontex, the message conveyed that that the majority of applications by Africans is rejected, the extension of the exclusion period of access to the labour market to nine months and the stricter controls put in place to crack down on illegal employment.

Regarding returns, the Ministry of Interior said that there has been an increase in the number of people who choose to return voluntarily to their country of origin, from 4,900 until October 2022 to over 6,000 people in the same period of this year.

Overall, the number of departures, which includes voluntary departures, deportations and relocations, has increased by 60% in the period to October 2023. In absolute numbers, 9,300 people left Cyprus this year, compared to 5,800 last year.

Figures show that for the month of November, the upward trend for returns seems to be continuing. In the period 1-24 November 2023 there were 685 returns and deportations, while for the entire month of November 2022 there were 626 returns/deportations.

In relation to the external dimension of migration, the Ministry notes that emphasis is now being placed on the implementation of the Eastern Mediterranean Action Plan, with the aim of effectively managing flows.

Several of the measures included in the Action Plan have already been implemented in Cyprus unofficially in recent months. In addition, the Ministry points out the initiative of the Republic of Cyprus to start the discussion at EU level on the re-evaluation of the status of Syria and the description of specific areas in the country as safe.

According to the Ministry, such a development will significantly help to promote the return of Syrians, who will not meet the conditions for securing refugee status.

In the context of international and European obligations, measures are taken to strengthen the capabilities of Cyprus in infrastructures for receiving and hosting immigrants.

For this purpose, the construction works of the new Center, with a capacity of approximately 1,000 people, and the Pre-Departure Center in the "Limnes" area in Menogeia, with a capacity of approximately 800 people, have begun and are expected to be completed within 24 months.

The first phase of upgrade works at Pournara center are expected to finish beginning of 2024, with a total cost of €25 million.

Cyprus  |  immigrants  |  migration  |  asylum  |  government

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