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Penalties for people-smugglers massively hiked

File photo of migrants who were brought to Cyprus by people-smugglers

Parliament has voted to bolster the law against people smugglers and educational institutions which facilitate “sham” students’ entry into the Republic.

Perhaps the most notable change is that now people who are paid to transport others across the sea in unsafe conditions – either due to the vessel being dangerous or overcrowded – will no longer simply face a misdemeanour but will instead be subject to up to 12 years in prison and/or a fine of up to €100,000.

The cap on fines and prison sentences has been increased for individuals or educational institutions which grant paperwork to supposed students, therefore allowing them easy access into Cyprus – in what authorities say is an abuse of the student visa programme.

The law had not been updated for some time, and as such it has been tweaked from one year imprisonment and a fine of £1,000 Cyprus pounds to two years and €10,000 respectively.

Should a third-country national systematically fail to turn up to lessons or drop out entirely, the owner or manager of the educational institution must now also inform the authorities within two months.

During the discussion of the bill, House interior committee chair, Eleni Mavrou, emphasised that simply beefing up the law without enforcing it will not yield results.

“If we want to tackle the problem then we know where to turn to,” she said.

During the past year in particular, the government has sought to drastically tighten regulations – and as it says, close loopholes – to reduce and dissuade economic and irregular migrants from arriving in Cyprus.

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