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Cyprus Mail

Government aims to shorten asylum reviews

Pournara camp

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Wednesday the government aimed at shortening the time it takes to review asylum applications and to especially speed up dealing with unjustified applications.

The issue was discussed on Wednesday at the House legal affairs committee where Nouris discussed four new draft bills with MPs.
“It is well known that there is a dramatic increase and surge in the number of asylum applicants, as their numbers are very big,” Nouris told deputies.

At the moment, he said, asylum applicants comprise 3.8 per cent of the island’s total population of around 900,000.

“We have to address this problem by making our mechanisms more effective,” Nouris added.

He said Cyprus had become a frequent destination for refugees from the region driven out by war or persecuted for various regions in their countries of origin. But there was also a high number of economic migrants, the minister said.

He made clear not all asylum seekers could be handled the same way.

“A head of a family fleeing his country to save his family is very different from someone who is sent off at the airport, enters a plane and reaches Cyprus in order to secure a better [economic] future,” the minister added.
He also referred to the island’s division as a factor and the systematic channelling of migrant flows through the buffer zone, which according to Nouris accounts for almost 75 per cent of total flows to the government-controlled areas.

Flows reached an all-time high by the end of last year and the beginning of 2020 but ground to a halt during the coronavirus lockdown when both sides shut off entry into the country.

There was also an issue with sham marriages and people who come to Cyprus on student visas in order to claim asylum, Nouris said.

“We want to shorten the time that is necessary to review an asylum application by putting in place these procedures and by implementing fast-track procedures to review manifestly unfounded applications, a procedure also endorsed by the EU,” Nouris said.

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