The house legal committee discussed on Tuesday a bundle of four bills, submitted by interior minister Nicos Nouris, that seek to streamline procedures for the processing of applications filed by asylum seekers as well as appeal proceedings.
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Nouris stated the bills also aim for a more efficient sorting through applications that obviously have no basis.
“It is well known that there is a dramatic increase and surge in the number of asylum seekers,” Nouris told the house legal committee.
Cyprus has become a destination for refugees that are either persecuted due to their nationality or religion, or who are attempting to flee war zones such as Syria, while others described as economic migrants flee in search of better living conditions, Nouris said.
“Migrants arriving in Cyprus are not all the same, not all need the same treatment, this is something we want to make clear,” he said, noting that a family man who leaves the country where he is persecuted to save his family is not in the same position as someone who gets on a plane to Cyprus in search of a better future.
“We have the problem of the occupation, we have the problem of Turkey, we have a problem with the systematic and mass promotion of migratory flows through the dividing line which reaches almost 75% of flows toward government-controlled areas, and of course we have distortions as regards the procedures we follow and for which we have already initiated solutions,” Nouris said.
He referred to a bill seeking to curb sham marriages and fake students that will be implemented in September.
The interior minister said the steep migrant flows, in combination with the abuses of the asylum system, impose the need for certain measures to be taken, for “the management mechanisms to be made more effective.”
Streamlining asylum procedures
Nouris said the four bills aim to fast track the processing of asylum procedures, as well as the procedures that deal with manifestly unfounded applications, a practice suggested by a relevant EU directive.
He added that the bills also work to hasten the return of migrants to safe countries, with a list of 21 safe countries having already been submitted for examination to the European Commission, while control mechanisms at entry points, both legal and illegal, will also be bolstered.
The bills also work to fast track appeals filed by asylum seekers, who will be able to file an appeal with the International Protection Administrative Court within 15 days instead of 75, and with the Supreme Court within 10 days instead of 42.
Nouris informed the committee that the bills have been discussed with the Attorney General, and a comparison has been made with the prevailing situation in Europe, according to which the total time of a speedy procedure in Austria is 20 days, in Belgium 15, in Finland 15, in Germany 10 to 25, in Lithuania 7, in Norway 48 hours and in the Netherlands it is 10 days.
He also explained that two of the bills include amendments allowing decisions regarding the provision of asylum and the issuance of a deportation order to be made by the same person, such as the head of the asylum service, reducing the judicial and administrative burden.
The interior minister also said the government has drastically strengthened the team that processes asylum applications with 30 additional people, 15 of whom were employed on Monday.
Nouris added that the government is moving forward with the construction of a new camp in Menoyia in the Larnaca district, where asylum seekers will stay until their application is processed.
A detailed overview of the island’s migration policy, which has increasingly come into attack in recent months in view of accusations of the arbitrary detention of refugees in existing camps, will be presented by Nouris before parliament on Thursday.