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06 December, 2021
 
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Less red tape for asylum seekers but no new options

Cyprus chamber of commerce wants more fields open to asylum seekers who can do jobs Cypriots won't

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Labor minister Zeta Emilianidou says her office has simplified paperwork for the hiring of asylum seekers, but the country's chamber of commerce says cutting red tape and shuffling less paper does not solve staff shortages in fields that are still inaccessible to those applicants.

Earlier this month, the labor ministry announced new procedures where employers wishing to hire eligible asylum seekers could offer a job start date immediately as long as they follow up and file paperwork with their district office.

The ease on paperwork and procedures comes following pressure from businesses, meaning employers now are not required to post vacancies in the press and workers do not have to wait until they can get their employment contracts stamped by a labor ministry clerk before going to work.

Based on media reports in the past, many workers had been arrested by police for failing to produce a contract with a visible ministry stamp, pitting labor office procedures against legislation that allows bona-fide asylum seekers to seek employment.

'A cheese factory starts work at 2am, so someone needs to go to work very early morning, you can understand that Cypriots don’t choose these kinds of jobs'

But the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the measures do not go far enough to alleviate staff shortages in a number of fields where asylum seekers are currently not allowed to work.

CCCI secretary general Marios Tsiakkis says the professional business network has been calling on the government to remove field restrictions on asylum seekers, who are currently authorized to be employed only in specific sectors mostly doing menial work.

The labor minister told a House committee this week that her office cut red tape in the hiring procedure following suggestions from CCCI, effectively honoring a previous commitment she had made in an “effort to find solutions.”

But Tsiakkis says there are many staff shortages due to EU workers having left due to the pandemic but also a refusal from locals to take on certain jobs, adding Cypriot workers were preferable but hard to find.

“For example, a cheese factory starts work early morning at 2am or 3am, they get the milk and need to process it, so someone needs to go to work at that time, and you can understand that Cypriots don’t choose these kinds of jobs,” Tsiakkis said.

“But it is top priority for businesses to hire Cypriots for many reasons, first of all they are people who live here, they love their country, they speak the language, they are here permanently and this is a given, so any training and costs involved won’t go to waste,” he added.

The CCCI director went on to say that Cypriots had better skills and abilities but they are nowhere to be found.

“This is our problem, we can’t find Cypriots to fill the jobs and this is why we end up hiring foreigners, which is something also lacking regulations, so at least we say let’s employ and make use of asylum seekers who are here and live on state subsidies,” Tsiakkis said.

Minister says asylum seekers must work in designated fields

The new rules urge employers to inspect an asylum seeker’s pending documents before hiring, while employment must end immediately if the application is denied.

Emiliniadou vowed to meet again to seek ways to address staff shortages but did not clarified what measures could be taken.

“The government’s aim is to have asylum seekers employed but this must take place in fields where they are currently authorized to work,” the minister said.

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