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Interior ministry defends clampdown on third country student visas

Pournara migrant reception centre (File photo)

The interior ministry lashed out at private colleges on Wednesday, saying they were greatly responsible for the ‘tragic’, high number of asylum seekers.

“We leave it to the public to decide whether or not there should be a barrier to the greed and status change of 3,214 virtual students into asylum seekers, but also another 2,239 ‘grooms’ and ‘brides’ from colleges, who entered into fake marriages in the past three years,” the announcement said.

The interior ministry was hitting back at the association of private tertiary education institutions which on Monday condemned a cabinet decision taken a few months ago to curb the number of visas issued to third country nationals entering Cyprus as students.

In May and July, the cabinet decided to set a ceiling from October on admissions from third countries – at 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 colleges claimed on Monday the decision has had catastrophic effects, including job losses and lost state revenue.

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 complained.

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”.

The decisions also affected countries like Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia, the association said, from where there are no asylum seekers.

“The cabinet decisions are wrong; they have created many problems and have catastrophic consequences.”

The announcement by the colleges followed an administrative court decision to reject their appeal against the cabinet’s decision on November 9, the interior ministry said.

“[The decision] states that the issue of irreparable damage and the claim of causing the most adverse and irreparable consequences amounting to hundreds of thousands of euros but also economic collapse remained too general and vague,” the ministry statement said.

“The effects on the colleges are not tragic. The numbers of asylum seekers in our country are tragic, for which the colleges also bear a great responsibility.”

The ministry said that the administrative court decided that “the alleged allegations are considered insufficient to substantiate even at first sight the existence of the risks claimed by the applicants.”

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