The migration issue is the most classic example of the failure of EU policy, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Tuesday as he queried what happened to EU solidarity on burden sharing of asylum seekers among member states, the Cyprus News Agency reports.
Cyprus has the highest number of asylum seeker applications per capita in the EU 28. Petrides told a conference in Nicosia that applicants are expected to exceed 3.5% of the population. The EU legal framework is antiquated and allows economic migrants to abuse the system, he told a conference organised by the European Parliament and European Commission offices in Cyprus and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees on the integration of refugees.
Petrides said he had sent a letter to the EU Commission in August asking the 5,000 asylum seekers from Cyprus be ‘redistributed’ in other countries as a way to ease the problem, but had received no reply.
“So how can we talk about solidarity?” he queried.
“Economic migrants are exploiting the asylum system at the expense of refugees and asylum seekers. The first victims of a bad asylum system are the real refugees themselves. ” @Petrides_C #RefugeeIntegrationCY @UNHCRCyprus pic.twitter.com/5S1aXpzK3b
— EP in Cyprus (@EP_CYPRUS) October 29, 2019
The minister said that asylum seekers in Cyprus are expected to reach or surpass 15,000 in 2019 which is close to 1.8% of the population and the number will rise to 3.5% if those already granted asylum or supplementary protection are added. In only six EU countries are numbers over 1%, said.
He also explained that the profile of asylum seekers has changed with the number of applicants from Syria down and an increase of arrivals from Africa. They fly to Turkey, obtain a transit visa to the Turkish occupied north and then end up in the government controlled areas where they ask for asylum. “Not many are refugees. They are economic migrants who abuse or exploit this,” he said.
One third of asylum seekers come legally as foreign workers — either as house help or agricultural workers and a little before their residence permits expire, they apply for asylum and here the state must improve its procedures, he said.
The first victims of a bad asylum system are real refugees, he added.
Cyprus has taken measures and is the first country to bring the EASO (European Asylum Support Agency) to the country. By the end of the year there will be 80 evaluators so that the procedures are quicker, but the issue he added was also the absorption rate.
Cyprus is setting up a new reception centre and another one will be set up for unaccompanied minors. Housing was a problem not only for asylum seekers but for Cypriots as rents have spiralled because of lack of accommodation.