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Cyprus preparing bills to harmonise with EU asylum rules as refugees due

One of the Syrian refugees rescued from a boat off Cyprus recently

By Andria Kades

The government is preparing three bills in light of the refugee crisis across Europe in order to harmonise Cyprus’ laws in accordance to EU rules, the House human rights committee announced on Monday.

Last week, 19, EU member states, Cyprus included received a slap on the wrist from Brussels for failing to fully implement legislation making up the Common European Asylum System.

The European Commission said it had adopted 40 infringement decisions against the member states.

Following up on the second implementation package of the European Agenda on migration the Commission said it was stepping up its efforts to ensure the full application of EU law in the area of migration and asylum.

The pieces of legislation concerned focus on fairer, quicker and better quality asylum decisions (the Asylum Procedures Directive); ensuring that there are humane physical reception conditions (such as housing) for asylum seekers across the EU (the Reception Conditions Directive); and clarifying the grounds for granting international protection (the Qualification Directive) it said in a statement.

Speaking after the House session on Monday, chairman Sofoclis Fyttis said the harmonising rules Cyprus would adopt included exchanging applicants’ information across EU member states and fingerprinting applicants to prevent jihadists and traffickers from moving freely within the bloc.

These will “modernise the refugee process in accordance to EU directives…and an extensive, detailed report will be prepared and submitted to plenum,” he told reporters.

Cyprus has been allocated 509 refugees with 173 expected to arrive from Greece and Italy. A previous group has already brought 69 to the island and an additional 35 refugees from Italy, 112 from Greece and 120 from Hungary are set to come.

Asked if Cyprus had the infrastructure to accommodate everyone he said this was a matter of concern but due to the financial crisis, the island was not the preferred option for the refugees, so no new infrastructure would be built.

The island will however be receiving €75 million from EU funding.

The Kofinou asylum centre has the capacity to house 400 people in total. There are currently 276 people living there.

Discussing the figures that indicate the housing was not adequate enough for the designated number, Fyttis told the Cyprus Mail a lot of refugees leave and the numbers were not set in stone.

“At some point however there might not be room for everyone so we may have to take some to Kokinotrimithia. Or we may add more rooms to Kofinou. We have to better prepare ourselves,” he stressed and evaluate the infrastructure. For instance, say there’s six beds to a room. If a couple is placed in that room who then will occupy the other four beds?”

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