Private colleges said on Monday cabinet decisions a few months ago to curb asylum applications from third country nationals entering Cyprus as students have had catastrophic effects, including job losses and lost state revenue.
In a statement on Monday, the association of private tertiary education institutions, said millions in foreign currency have been lost as each college has already returned hundreds of thousands of euros to students who had prepaid their fees.
They said they had to terminate staff, educators and administrators “and unfortunately personnel layoffs will rise in colleges with the expected further reduction in students”.
This would also mean lost state revenues in the form of corporate tax, defence contribution and social insurance. The decisions also affected countries like Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia, the association said, from where there are no asylum seekers.
“One more reason for which we think the interior minister aimed at hurting colleges and not resolve the asylum application problems with correct policies,” the statement said.
“The cabinet decisions are wrong; they have created many problems and have catastrophic consequences.”
In May and July, the cabinet decided to set a ceiling on admissions from third countries – 20 per cent of capacity. This, the colleges said, precludes them from registering any new students from third countries for the next few years until the rate dropped to below 20 per cent.
The government also said students from third countries must have additional academic qualifications to be eligible for admission and it banned admissions from those countries during the summer – June to September.
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 last week, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said 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.