By George Psyllides
THE UN high commission for refugees (Unhcr) said Thursday the situation in Cyprus concerning migrant inflows is manageable at present, despite the rise in numbers, but a broader readiness plan must be drafted in case of mass arrivals.
The spokeswoman of Unhcr’s Cyprus office said the organisation was on Cyprus’ side and ready to assist in efforts to provide comprehensive protection to refugees according to the country’s European and international obligations.
“There must be a broader readiness plan than what exists in the event of mass arrivals,” Emilia Strovolidou told the Cyprus News Agency.
On Wednesday, a ministerial committee announced a string of measures, including fast-tracking asylum applications and a special court that will only examine appeals against rejected applications.
Any measures put in place must be in line with the island’s obligations, Strovolidou said.
She added that what mattered to Unhcr was for refugees to continue to have access to fair asylum procedures inside the country’s territory. Fair, effective, and swift procedures were to everyone’s benefit.
“I will lead to faster integration of people recognised as refugees and not extend the period of uncertainty in which asylum seekers live,” Strovolidou said.
“As regards the matter of reception and integration of asylum seekers into the society, there are areas that need to be reinforced,” she said. “There are gaps but we think there can be improvement through consultation to have a comprehensive plan as concerns reception and integration of these people.”
The UN official said behind the numbers there was always a human and a painful story, but also determination to rebuild their lives.
“Consequently, we must support these people’s effort for a second chance to life.”
At a European level, she said, the only way of tackling the refugee situation was solidarity between the member-states and not transferring of responsibility from one country to another.
In the wake of a recent spike in arrivals, mostly from war-torn Syria, the government held an emergency meeting on Wednesday where it was decided to step up measures and also seek a readmission agreement with Lebanon.