The spike in migrants and refugees is best addressed by speeding up examination of asylum applications rather preventing their arrival, the UN High Commission for Refugees in Cyprus indicated on Wednesday.
“The most important thing is for asylum applications to be examined as quickly as possible, in a just and effective way,” UNHCR Cyprus press officer Emilia Strovolidou told the Cyprus News Agency.
“We should focus on management rather than prevention, because the language being used is mainly of prevention,” she said.
She added that there was a distinction between refugees and economic migrants.
Her remarks came as President Nicos Anastasiades expressed concern over the increased flow of irregular migrants to the Republic of Cyprus.
The president said he had contacted Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to express his concern at the “organised and increased illegal flow of migrants to the Republic of Cyprus,”and stress the need for measures to avert it.
And in statements after a meeting at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said that in the past three days, 223 irregular migrants have come to the Republic — 153 of them by midday on Tuesday. About 100 turned up at the immigration service in Nicosia and asked for political asylum. They were taken to the temporary accommodation centre for asylum seekers at Kokkinotrimthia.
Nouris said that Cyprus cannot cope with the increased number of economic migrants. But he assured that Nicosia had no intention of sending people to countries where their lives are at risk.
According to UNHCR figures based on media reports, a total of 859 irregular migrants have come to Cyprus since January of whom 340 in the past two weeks. Most are from countries of Africa such as Cameroon and Somalia.
As regards entries through the buffer zone, most were in the area of Athienou and others had crossed near Astromeritis and Kokkinotrimithia.
Overall on average Cyprus received about 1000 asylum applications a month in 2019 and figures remain at these levels.
The UNHCR contributes to the creation of those institutions which will allow a speedier examination of applications, she added.
Strovolidou suggested there first be a screening to distinguish between applications which are clearly founded and those which are clearly unfounded and that both are then fast tracked. More complex cases should follow the routine procedure.
She said that fast track procedures were implemented for applicants from Georgia and had led to a decrease in applications.
All applications must be examined, she added noting that the asylum service has been boosted by personnel from the European Asylum Support Office and another 110 people will be added by the end of the year.
Boosting the service combined with stronger institutions to examine applications can bring about the changes sought by the government and send the message to those who use the asylum application route to extend their stay in Cyprus.