Minister of Interior Nicos Nouris announced on Tuesday the government’s action plan for managing migrant flows following a meeting of the council of ministers.
Nouris said that the need to imminently and effectively manage flows arose from a sharp increase in illegal immigration and asylum applications, mentioning that Cyprus is currently handling 33,000 applications that correspond to 3.8% of the Cyprus population.
Within the framework of the action plan on immigration, the council of ministers decided the following:
- Shortening the duration for processing asylum applications by increasing next month the number of employees at the competent department from 32 to 69.
- Amendment of legislation to shorten deadlines of the right to appeal to the court.
- Compile a list of safe countries to differentiate unsubstantiated applications.
- Applications from countries found in the list of safe countries will be characterised as unsubstantiated and their applications will go through an expedited process that will last a maximum of 10 days.
- A deportation warrant will be issued for rejected applicants from safe countries with the right to appeal to court within 3 days.
- Strict penalties will be imposed to organisers of sham weddings via the amendment of the relevant legislation.
- Starting with the upcoming academic term, strict criteria will be introduced for the acceptance of third country nationals to Cypriot private colleges to end the sham student phenomenon, with strict penalties stipulated for offenders.
- Imminent formation of organised accommodation and housing locations with a subsequent amendment of the allowance policy.
- Creation of a new closed-access accommodation centre with a capacity of 600 people to house asylum applicants while their applications are being processed.
- Reopening of the closed wing at the Menoyia detention centre.
- Introduction of checks to properties in collaboration with local authorities to target illegal housing of immigrants.
- Step up the monitoring of illegal employment.
- Imminent implementation of the action framework agreed with the EU for the setting up of an EU-wide authority for the return of immigrants.
- Expand measures at the ceasefire line and increase police and army patrols to reinforce the public feeling of security.
- The Minister of Interior is authorised to boost communication with European border agency FRONTEX to further cooperation on returns and the management of irregular migrant flows from land and sea through patrols, especially in the Northern part of the island between the Turkish-occupied coastline and Turkey.
- Imminent dispatch of a request to the EU Commission by the President — already drafted — for financial support for the 2020-2021 period to fund the creation of suitable accommodation areas for migrants and associated costs for staff and operations, and the provision of equipment for the supervision of the coastline and the ceasefire line.
In a press release announcing the measures on Thursday, the Ministry of Interior added that Cyprus is ready to support refugees whose lives are threatened, unprotected children and anyone coming from war-torn countries.
At the same time, the announcement continued, it wants to send a clear message that the country has surpassed its limits and is now experiencing a demographic alteration.