By Andria Kades
A TOTAL of 55,000 Greek Cypriot refugees have sought grants or other assistance since 1996 from the state agency that deals with these matters, the deputy chief Loukia Efstathiou told the Cyprus Mail.
So far, 50,500 applications have been examined and 41,700 have been approved. A difference in numbers does not necessarily suggest those that were rejected, Efstathiou said, as some have withdrawn their applications.
The agency receives applications for student loans, medical assistance, business and property loans.
In order to receive assistance for a property or business loan, applicants must already have a loan approved by any other bank. Once that is in order, the agency can then partially fund the interest rate paid for the loan.
Applicants will pay two per cent of the loan, while the agency will pay the rest. The maximum value for a property loan is €130,000 and a business loan is €105,000.
As far as medical assistance is concerned, the agency covers costs of up to €85,000 that include surgeries, transplants or expenses incurred by those who have to travel abroad for medical procedures. Although the state may cover the medical expenses, the agency assists with incremental costs, such as accommodation.
Refugees can also apply for student loans of up to €105,000 for any country they wish to pursue higher education. The money also covers a portion of living expenses.
Should the applicant study in England where they can receive a loan from a student loan provider, they will receive funds only for their living expenses. This is because both offer low interest rate loans. Efstathiou stressed that the funds come from the state but are approved by the agency.
The interest rate offered is 1.75 per cent and is payable a year after they graduate.
According to the Pancyprian Union of Refugees (PEP), there are two available programmes that offer financial assistance to buy or build a house.
Based on income criteria, Pandelis Klitou from PEP said the amount of money they receive is based on criteria related to household income. This means should the annual combined income reach €30,000 per year they are eligible for €20,000 provided this is a family of two.
Should there be more members in the family the criteria remains the same but the amount they are eligible for increases.
If a family of two earns between €30,000 and €45,000 a year, they are eligible for €15,000.
According to Klitou, refugees can also apply for assistance to pay their rent where they can receive anywhere from €66 to €133 if their income is between €14,284 and €19,546.
In 2013, the law changed to allow individuals to get refugee status from their mother. Although the interior ministry welfare service could not immediately reveal to the Cyprus Mail exact figures of registered refugees, they clarified that they had the same rights as all the other refugees.