Cyprus is among the EU member states that received more asylum applicants last year than during the migration crisis of 2015, according to the latest Easo Asylum Report 2020 published on Thursday.
According to the European Asylum Support Office (Easo) report for 2020, last year, applications for asylum in EU+ countries rose by 11 per cent, which translates to 738 425, followed by a 16 per cent increase recorded in the first two months of 2020.
The report said that Cyprus had one of the sharpest increases in the number of applications in 2019, to the tune of 76 per cent compared to 2018. Last year, Cyprus received 13,650 asylum applicants compared to around half that number in 2018 and one third in 2017. The top country of origin of applicants by 20 per cent, was Syria, the report said.
Cyprus is also the country that faced the largest relative backlog, with more than 2,000 pending cases for every 100,000 inhabitants. According to the data given, 18, 795 cases were pending at the end of last year, an 85 per cent increase compared with 2018. The top country of origin for these pending cases was again, Syria.
The report said that Cyprus, Greece and Malta “were under the highest pressure, reasonably as a result of a persisting inflow of asylum applications”.
“In relative terms, Greece and Malta also had many more open cases than the rest of the EU+ countries, but less than one-half that of Cyprus,” it said.
Last year, Cyprus granted refugee status at first instance to 150 people which is 23 per cent less than 2018 and subsidiary protection to 1,150 cases marking a 13 per cent increase from 2018. It also rejected almost 2,000 applications last year, which is 56 per cent more than in 2018. The top country of origin of people whose applications were rejected was India, the report said.
Cyprus, along with France, Greece, Malta and Spain, received more asylum applicants in 2019 than during the migration crisis of 2015, it said. It added that urgent measures were put in place to address an influx of migrants, disembarkations and rising backlogs of pending cases, while endeavouring to protect the rights of asylum seekers and share responsibility amongst member states.
Despite that there were five times as many applications for international protection than detections of illegal border crossings at the external border in 2019, the report said, “border countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece and some Western Balkans countries detected an increase in illegal border crossings compared to 2018.”
As regards arrivals by boat, the report said that Cyprus generally received relatives of Syrians who have been granted subsidiary protection, “possibly because this status in the country does not allow for family reunification.”
Cyprus was also among other frontline member states recording the largest increases from 2018 to 2019 as regards asylum application withdrawals along with Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Spain. In contrast, withdrawals decreased in some of the so-called destination countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and Sweden.
The report said that countries responded to changing migratory patterns by introducing new measures or practices throughout the year to ensure effective implementation of the European asylum acquis.
To address increased needs in Cyprus, it said, the EU also provided financial and operational support toward developing an action plan for effective migration management. It added that Cyprus Easo has been providing special support to the country since 2014.
Easo also said that its asylum support teams, which also comprise seconded experts from member states, were deployed on the ground to provide rapid and direct support, by assisting in asylum processes, clearing existing backlogs and training national staff. As part of this, in 2019 more than one-half of all registrations in Cyprus, Greece and Italy were handled with Easo’s assistance, it said.