Newsroom / CNA
The inauguration of the first phase of construction works at the International Protection Applicant Reception Center in Kofinou, upgraded with the support of the European Asylum Agency (EUAA), took place today, conducted by the Minister of Interior, Konstantinos Ioannou, along with Nina Gregory, the Executive Director of EUAA, and Beate Gminder, Deputy Director-General in the Directorate-General for Internal Affairs of the EU.
In his speech, the Minister stated that "the improvement of reception and hosting infrastructure remains a top priority of the government's migration policy for better migration management" and described the solidarity shown by the European Commission and its agencies as "truly valuable."
"the European Commission financially supports these projects with a contribution of 67.6 million euros." - Konstantinos Ioannou, Minister of Interior
Nina Gregory, Executive Director of the European Asylum Agency (EUAA), and Beate Gminder, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Migration and Internal Affairs at the European Commission, expressed their satisfaction with their cooperation with the Cypriot authorities in the fields of asylum and migration. They referred to the progress observed in the management of migration flows and asylum seekers.
The Minister noted that today's visit to Kofinou "marks the completion of the construction works of the Center and the beginning of its operational phase, which is scheduled to start in about two weeks when it will begin accommodating residents. EUAA has provided significant support by supplying prefabricated housing and office units to meet the increasing needs of the Center, during a period of continuous migration flows to Cyprus, which has greatly affected its capacity to accommodate."
He added that "the development of the Center will soon proceed to another phase, in which its capacity will significantly increase, allowing us to accommodate approximately 700 residents. The second phase is expected to be completed around the first half of 2024."
Konstantinos Ioannou further stated that "the substantial and continuous assistance provided by the EUAA to the Cypriot authorities is highly appreciated in various aspects of the asylum and reception process, including human resources, expertise, training, technical support, and equipment. Undoubtedly, the EUAA has been one of our most valuable partners in our efforts to effectively manage the increased and disproportionately large migration flows to the island in recent years."
He further noted that "while awaiting the final agreement on the EU's Migration and Asylum Pact and facing the unequal distribution of asylum seekers among EU member states, the EUAA is confronted with the challenge of establishing uniformity in asylum and reception procedures among member states with different national policies, practices, and asylum mechanisms. Increasing quality standards and harmonization can only lead to strengthening overall trust in EU asylum procedures and contribute to the establishment of a Common European Asylum System."
Improving reception and hosting infrastructure, the Minister of Interior continued, remains a top priority of the current government's migration policy. In addition to the enhancement of the Hospitality Center in Kofinou, we have other significant projects in progress, he said. These include the construction of a Reception Center for international protection applicants with a capacity of 1000 individuals and a Pre-departure Center in Larnaca with a capacity of approximately 800 individuals, he added, noting that "the European Commission financially supports these projects with a contribution of 67.6 million euros."
Referring to the "Pournara" First Reception Center in Kokkinotrimithia, Mr. Ioannou stated that it is being upgraded with direct funding from the Commission to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Greece.
He further emphasized the significance of these specific projects, as they aim to improve the living conditions of residents and enhance the management and efficiency of asylum procedures. Additionally, they facilitate the return of migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected. "They represent significant milestones in our efforts to strengthen the capacity of the Republic of Cyprus to effectively manage migration flows," he emphasized.
The Minister of Interior expressed the sincere gratitude of the Government towards the European Commission for its unwavering support. "The solidarity demonstrated by the European Commission and EU agencies is truly invaluable and deeply appreciated," he said.
Nina Gregory, Executive Director of EUAA, characterized the cooperation with Cypriot authorities as "long-standing and truly significant." She noted that today's inauguration serves as an example of how genuine partners collaborate and "how our efforts for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection can bear fruit."
She added that the section of the Center that opened today will accommodate an additional 150 individuals. She expressed satisfaction that the 74 accommodation units meet European standards and highlighted that across the 27 European countries, the people whom they are trying to support "have the same level of reception conditions, the same level of asylum conditions, and this is something we should strive for, to have a common European system."
Referring to their work in Cyprus since 2014, he noted that "this year's budget is the largest budget we have ever had in our cooperation's history." He mentioned that the organization currently employs 280 staff members and has committed approximately 16 million euros for this year. "The goal is to provide support for the development of the Cypriot asylum system," he said.
He further stated that EUAA will also contribute to the voluntary relocation mechanism, and when addressing unaccompanied minors, he emphasized the need for special attention, something that Cyprus will continue to make efforts in, both administratively and in the housing sector. Regarding negotiations for the new EU Migration and Asylum Pact, he said that "member states have agreed and have a common approach on the most significant issues, such as solidarity and responsibility."
Additionally, Beate Gminder, Deputy Director-General of the Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs of the European Commission, described the renovation at the Center in Kofinou as an "achievement" and noted that when she first visited the Center two years ago, it did not resemble what we see today.
She added, "Migration management starts from the countries people leave. It starts with helping people stay in their own place because most people want to stay in their own place unless they are criminally persecuted. It starts with explaining to them that going to smugglers and paying significant amounts of money often does not lead to the dream life they intend to have."
She further explained that "it is important to give them a fair chance for an asylum process and to hear their case because there are people who need international protection. But of course, there are also people who do not need it and must be returned to their countries."
According to the Minister, Cyprus has made tremendous efforts in this matter in recent years. The Minister advocates for the increase of reception spaces because housing is a critical issue throughout Europe and in Cyprus, and it is important to have available space and accommodation while people are in the asylum process.
As Ms. Gminder stated, "Cyprus has collaborated with European services, such as Frontex, to improve returns to countries of origin if individuals do not have the right to stay, and many voluntarily leave and return to their countries because they realize they have become victims of smugglers."
She also expressed the Commission's satisfaction with the assistance provided in this specific process and added, "We are developing a new migration system in Europe" and noted that Cyprus is a key partner for the Commission.