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20 May, 2024
 
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New migration scandal looms after network uncovered

Limassol police investigate fraud after detained foreign delivery drivers said they paid agents to renew driver permits

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A new scandal involving services for asylum seekers may have been inadvertently uncovered in Limassol, where arrest warrants have been issued amid strict rules for renewing driver permits and a black market designed to overcome restrictions.

(Click here for an update to the story)

Local media said arrest warrants were issued this week for 20 foreign nationals, after an official in Limassol discovered there were irregularities with their pending applications to renew driver learner permits.

The official, who works at a Citizen Services Center in Limassol, reportedly went to double check 20 cases of foreign nationals who had pending applications for learner or regular driver permits that were submitted between 8 December 2022 and 3 March 2023.

Official guidance instructs asylum seekers who wish to renew driver permits to present an original document of legal presence in Cyprus, a certificate no longer issued by Immigration for such purposes

According to media reports, the official suspected fraudulent information in residence documents of 16 applications that had been submitted through a center in Limassol and 4 others at a location in Agros.

Local media said the official became suspicious after checking document MEU2 in their files, referring to an application for non-EU citizens who are family members of EU citizens, while additional reports said none of them was married to a European national.

But three suspects, who have been arrested in connection with the case, reportedly told authorities they had no knowledge of fraudulent information in their documents, telling investigators they had obtained driver permits after paying certain individuals between €750 and €1000.

Knews understands that two of the three suspects have told police they paid an agency in Limassol in order to obtain a permit, while another suspect said he gave the money to an acquaintance.

The immigration status of the suspects was not immediately clear but the official in Limassol described their documents as expired.

The case comes just ten days after immigration authorities scrapped an online appointment platform, when allegations made public suggested agents had been selling available slots to foreigners for profit and causing months of waiting for those who did not shell out the cash.

But the case also comes amid a host of challenges during the previous administration that sought to toughen the rules.

Many foreign nationals on student or work visas in Cyprus have been rumored to seek asylum in order to get more favorable employability status, after reports said employers were hesitant to employ workers where a lot of restrictions and paperwork was needed.

But following clarification in 2020 that essentially reduced paperwork for asylees, a Transport office document dated in 2021 still instructed asylum seekers who wished to renew their driver permits to present an original document of legal presence in the Republic of Cyprus, a document no longer issued by the Immigration office for such purposes.

The suspects in the case are facing charges of illegal stay, overstay, document fraud, and obtaining state-issued documents under false pretenses.

Local media said more developments were expected in the coming days.

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