A sharp reduction in asylum applications filed by international students has been recorded since early October, following the introduction of tougher entry rules for foreign students at private colleges by the government.
The decision to clamp down on foreign students’ asylum applications was taken to discourage potential migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus ‘disguised’ as prospective students.
Speaking before the House education committee on Wednesday, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said that only 57 asylum applications from foreign students were filed since the new raft of rules were introduced in September, as opposed to a staggering 940 applications filed between January this year and the clampdown.
The country of origin for 646 out of the 940 asylum applicants is India, followed by Nepal with 173, Bangladesh with 53 and Pakistan with 45. All of them entered Cyprus legally, Nouris added.
He also said that 65 per cent of asylum seekers with Indian nationality who arrived in Cyprus before the introduction of the new rules, were in possession of a student visa.
“I want to reiterate that this government is actively supporting the expansion of higher education schools and universities, but we cannot ignore the issue of people arriving in Cyprus from other countries as students and ending up being asylum seekers. This creates huge problems for all of us,” Nouris said.
The head of the education committee Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis said the new rules will undoubtedly help produce better students in Cyprus.
“Our higher education institutions cannot be used as an excuse for people who arrive in the country seeking asylum or to take part in sham marriages.”
On the last topic, during the education committee, Nouris said that the interior ministry has also voided 831 resident permits in 2020 as they were linked to sham marriages.
Along with a clampdown on suspicious student applications, the new raft of rules is also aiming to stamp out sham marriages.
The new updated bills call for the presentation of a ‘letter of freedom to marry’ from the interior ministry’s registrar. This also concerns cohabitation agreements.
Municipalities found to officiate sham marriages will also be stripped of the right to officiate civil marriages.