The disproportionate migratory flows have led to a situation of force majeure, forcing to their limits the national asylum and reception systems, said Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.
Signing on Monday an agreement on the implementation of the Second Swiss Contribution between the Republic of Cyprus and the Swiss Federal Council, in Bern, the Minister said that this financial support comes at a time when the number of asylum seekers in Cyprus has exceeded 16,5 thousand for 2022 and the overall percentage of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection has reached 6% of the country's total population.
The agreement, as he noted, includes substantial financial support in a number of areas such as migration and social cohesion, with particular reference to health programmes for people with rare genetic disorders, programmes to combat violence in the family and the particularly sensitive issue for Cyprus, the investigation of the fate of our missing persons as a result of the Turkish invasion of 1974.
Nouris expressed his sincere gratitude to the Swiss Government, for this significant act of true solidarity towards the Republic of Cyprus and the contribution of 10 million Swiss francs, which will be utilized in the effort to effectively manage the increased migration flows that Cyprus is facing.
"The gesture of the Swiss Government and the financial support to the Republic of Cyprus show the solidarity that is gradually being established in Europe in the management of the migration issue and especially towards the frontline member states that bear the greatest burden of the problem," the Minister said.
Nouris said that the Swiss contribution will be used in two extremely important pillars. The first pillar is the implementation of efficient and high-quality asylum procedures, under which new infrastructures for the Asylum and Migration Services will be established in order to improve current facilities and, therefore, increase the capacity in handling asylum issues. "The new infrastructures will make it possible to properly accommodate the additional staff the Service will recruit in order to be able to operate more effectively and manage the increased migratory flows," he said.
The second pillar, Nouris added, is the additional decisive enhancement of returns of those migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected, with respect to the principle for the voluntary, dignified and safe return of third-country nationals to their country of origin.
As he noted, Cyprus has managed to increase returns in the latest years, while in 2022 we managed to multiply the numbers, exceeding so far 6000 returns. "A figure that puts Cyprus in the first place, per capita, among the EU Member States in terms of returns. I am confident that with this support we will achieve even more in this area", he went on to say.
He also said that the action of the Swiss government takes on even greater significance as it takes place at a time when Europe is overwhelmed by the crisis in Ukraine causing, among other issues, serious economic difficulties.
Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said that they signed a bilateral agreement on migration and in this framework Switzerland will be contributing 10 million francs towards supporting the asylum system in Cyprus until 2026.
She noted that the funding will be used for projects and programmes in the areas of infrastructure, return and repatriation.
"Especially the return policies are important to Switzerland so that illegal migrants that come to Cyprus can be returned directly to the country of origin. This agreement is part of the second Swiss contribution to selected EU countries. We are hereby strengthening our cooperation with EU states that are experiencing high levels of migratory pressures," she noted.
The Swiss Minister also said that Nouris has given her a striking insight into the difficult situation in Cyprus adding that secondary migration is a problem of all countries in the Schengen Area and also countries not part of Schengen. "I hope that this contribution will help support the government of Cyprus", she concluded.