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19 June, 2024
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In a historic first, asylum applications drop by 51%

Cyprus witnesses 50% surge in migrant returns


Interior Minister Konstantinos Ioannou announced today that, for the first time in Cyprus' immigrant history, there has been a shift in the balance between migrant arrivals and departures. He stated that asylum applications have decreased by 51% over the last six months.

Following a session of the ad hoc Parliamentary Committee on the demographic problem, Minister Ioannou informed the Parliamentary Committee on Demography about these migration statistics, describing the overall message as "encouraging."

The Minister noted that there has been a 51% reduction in total migrant arrivals in the past six months. Additionally, he highlighted that the number of people leaving Cyprus has increased by 50%.

"In the last six months, we had around 5,800 asylum seekers, compared to approximately 12,000 last year," stated Minister Ioannou. When comparing the last five months, he mentioned, "Last year, we had around 3,200 returns, while this year, that number has risen to 4,700." He emphasized that this marks the first time in Cyprus' immigrant history that the balance between arrivals and departures has shifted.

While expressing cautious optimism, the Minister acknowledged the possibility of future changes and mentioned ongoing efforts to reduce migrant flows. He stated that the monthly examination of applications has increased to 2,000 per month, up from about 1,000 last year. The processing time for applications and appeals to the administrative court has been reduced from over nine months to three months.

Minister Ioannou also stressed the importance of combating illegal immigration networks. He mentioned that a committee has been established to process information, and police have already made arrests related to these networks. If more such networks are detected, further arrests will follow.

The Minister pointed out the significance of expediting asylum applications, as it affects allowances and labor market access. He explained that rejected applicants are offered a voluntary return program with incentives to leave Cyprus, but some choose to stay illegally to work. To address this issue, intensive checks have been conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Labor to identify irregular work, encouraging more migrants to opt for voluntary returns.

Minister Ioannou also addressed the challenge of deportations due to the lack of a detention facility. He mentioned the construction of a new pre-removal center, which is expected to be completed in two years, and emphasized that having such a facility would enable more deportations.

Regarding the deportation of Syrians, the Minister clarified that Syrians cannot be deported as they come from a war-torn and unsafe country. He expressed a need to revisit this issue if the situation in Syria changes. He also mentioned efforts to prevent migrants from undertaking dangerous journeys and noted cooperation with Lebanon in intercepting boats.

In response to a question about rejected applications, Minister Ioannou mentioned the President's commitment to hire 25 additional examiners in the Asylum Service starting in September. He also acknowledged the backlog of approximately 30,000 pending asylum applications, which would be expedited with the increased number of examiners.

Regarding the migrant information campaign, the Minister explained that it aims to counter misinformation among asylum seekers about what to expect in Cyprus. The campaign is currently being launched in several countries, including Congo, Nigeria, and Cameroon, to provide accurate information to potential migrants before they decide to make the journey.

Cyprus  |  migration  |  asylum  |  surge  |  Syrians  |  government

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