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15 June, 2024
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Visa fraud scandal widens after airport arrest

New scandal unravels after rejected Syrian refugees paid middlemen to get protection status to live and work


Cyprus Police made headway in an investigation into visa fraud over the weekend, following an airport arrest in connection with an illegal network where Syrians rejected for refugee status ended up paying middlemen for subsidiary protection.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told local media on Monday morning that a suspect who attempted to fly overseas on Sunday evening was arrested at Larnaca International Airport in connection with an investigation into visa fraud.

The case under investigation emerged after a complaint was filed about an alleged illegal network that secured subsidiary protection status to Syrian nationals whose refugee applications had been rejected by the state.

Two Greek Cypriot women, a 40-year-old civil servant and a 65-year-old notary official, have already been arrested along with a 41-year-old Syrian national, while seven other foreigners aged between early 20s and early 40s from the that country have also been detained.

Last year a man had accused the interior minister of selectively approving visa extensions while rejected cases were being approved fraudulently through a backchannel involving a high price tag

Police said the civil servant was being investigated for corruption, bribery, abuse of authority, and dereliction of duty, along with additional charges for all suspects such as forgery, conspiracy, and fraud by false representation.

Knews understands the civil servant was not a regular employee at Migration, while additional reports suggested some of the foreign suspects claimed they were forced to pay in order to secure a legal right to live and work in the Republic of Cyprus.

Andreou said the civil servant was not a longtime employee at Migration. He declined to elaborate on the case except to say alleged offenses under investigation took place in 2023.

Subsidiary protection status is typically given to third-country nationals who do not qualify for refugee status but still belong in a category of persons believed to face real risks if returned to their country of origin.

Ten other suspects are still wanted in connection with the case which emerged just months after a traffic accident prompted police to widen a fraud investigation into middlemen providing driving permits to foreign delivery drivers.

Back in March a scandal involving services for asylum seekers was inadvertently uncovered in Limassol amid strict rules for renewing driver permits and a black market designed to overcome restrictions for certain categories of foreigners.

In both cases, it was not clear whether foreign nationals sought to violate rules or had been told to pay middlemen in order to obtain permits in the Republic of Cyprus.

Last year bombshell allegations were made about visa fraud when a man accused then interior minister Nicos Nouris of selectively approving visa extensions while rejected cases were being approved fraudulently through a backchannel involving a high price tag.

Cyprus  |  visa  |  migration  |  refugee  |  protection status  |  fraud  |  illegal network  |  bribery  |  corruption  |  abuse  |  asylum  |  Syria  |  notary official  |  civil servant  |  police

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