With 15,000 registered asylum seekers, already on Cypriot soil, the government has expressed its strong concerns about the new EU future’s plan, where so-called control centres could be located to process the migrants disembarkation on EU soil.
Cyprus has been included in a list of EU member states, in which processing centres for asylum seekers will be located and built to allegedly better process the disembarking of migrants and their residence permission in the EU member states territory. Another ongoing attempt to solve a common migration policy within the bloc.
Just in the last year, Greece and Cyprus had the highest number of asylum seekers per million of the population in the EU with 5,295 and 5,235. In this year, Cyprus topped the list in the first quarter with 1,551 applicants per million of the population.
According to Cyprus Mail sources, the government has expressed its skepticism over this EU scheme, arguing that Cyprus has already taken in enough migrants according to its population.
The EU spokesman justifies the plan explaining that it seeks “a truly shared regional responsibility to respond to the complex challenges of migration.”
As reported by the EU, the aim between the creation of the centres is to improve the process of distinguishing between individuals in need of international protection, and irregular migrants with no right to remain in the EU and with this speed up the deportations. The processing center will be facilities that provide adequate living qualities and conditions according to EU standards and will ensure the management of migrants after disembarkation until a decision on the asylum of each is issued. They will be under the management of the member state and a reinforced presence and assistance will be provided by EU agencies. The EU budget will cover all infrastructure and operational costs and will also grant €6,000 per migrant relocated in the member state and €500 in deportation costs per asylum-seeker.
Although immigrant arrivals mainly occur in Spain, Greece and Northern Europe, Cypriot authorities believe their country has reached its maximum capacity considering its small population.
Cyprus Interior Minister, Constantinos Petrides, insists on the creation of an automatic mechanism for redistributing asylum seekers, his position expressed during the European Council on migration:
“We have serious reservations regarding the operation of large centres in Europe, especially in the absence of this mechanism.” he said
“There must be a holistic approach and not one that deals with the issues in piecemeal fashion.” he added.
In Cyprus, the concern is that as war continues in the Middle East and as more poverty grows in Africa, more and more people will seek refuge on the island, especially when many now appear to have family living in the country, either as asylum seekers or having international protection, making Cyprus the main destination.
Yet, a lot of African immigrants avoid Cyprus, due to the country’s migrant policies and to the fact that it is not a member-state in the Schengen area, the EU’s passport-free zone, which does not allow immigrants to eventually travel to the EU countries that have a better lifestyle and are economically richer, such as Sweden or Germany.
However, Cypriot authorities say they have discovered an established people smuggling ring now operating in a route between Syria and Cyprus and through Turkey.
“In the last arrival of 61 Syrians from Turkey on June 13, preliminary interviews by asylum service were conducted during which it was said that Cyprus is considered and promoted by traffickers as an ideal destination in relation with Europe and Turkey.” stated the Cypriot Interior Minister.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, affirmed that Syrians topped the list of nationalities who received international protection in Cyprus between 2002 and 2017 with 5,274 people. They are followed by 1,964 Palestinians and 854 Iraqis.
Between 2011 and 2017, according to UNHCR data, Cyprus received 6,231 applications from Syrian nationals and it granted refugee status to 140, as well it afforded subsidiary protection to 4,934.