The government is to seek the European Commission’s permission to suspend asylum applications from those entering the country illegally.
The government made the announcement on Wednesday after an emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace to discuss the spiralling migration issue which has seen the arrival of 10,868 irregular migrants in the first 10 months of 2021, 9,270 of whom illegally crossed the green line.
Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said this was “a clear policy by Turkey of taking advantage of human suffering, based on a prescribed and conscious policy, since the vast majority of flows comes from that country.”
He added that 70 per cent of these flows are single men aged 25 to 40 years.
This year the numbers are already 38 per cent higher than the corresponding number for the whole of 2020, the spokesman said.
Pelekanos said the competent ministries submitted data “which demonstrate the risk of demographic change, but also the very acute socio-economic effects of the migration crisis that the country is facing”.
“Another finding is that, in addition to ghettoisation in urban areas, several communities have experienced significant demographic change,” he added.
He cited the data on pupils with a migrant background as the most significant example of how critical the problem is.
“In pre-primary education the number of these students exceeds 30 per cent of the total, while in primary education it amounts to 16 per cent.”
He said that with the implementation of the new procedure for speedy examination of applications, 8,671 applications have already been rejected, but the current flows are added to the more than 33,000 cases of people illegally residing in the Republic.
Pelekanos also referred to the rise in crime, which he described as “particularly worrying”, since more than 43 per cent of serious crimes involve irregular or illegal immigrants.
The spokesman said that pursuant to Article 78 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, a request will be submitted to the European Commission for action in favour of the Republic of Cyprus, including the granting of the right to suspend asylum applications by persons entering the country illegally.
“The government will also claim the immediate relocation of a number of asylum seekers to other member states, but also the repatriation of asylum seekers to their countries of origin,” he said.
The situation is burdening also Cypriot taxpayers, Pelekanos said.
In addition to the €178 million allocated by the EU between 2014 and 2020, Cypriot taxpayers have been burdened with an amount of €178m for the payment of benefits and infrastructure creation.
“Due to the deteriorating situation for this year alone, the deputy ministry of social welfare had to pay additional expenditure of €38m from the national budget on food and housing allowances,” he added.
Pelekanos recalled that the percentage of asylum seekers exceeds four per cent of the population of the areas controlled by the Republic while in the rest of the EU frontline countries it does not exceed one per cent. He said European institutions agree that Cyprus ranks top in the bloc for asylum seekers.
He said that to tackle the situation, it was also decided to set up a ministerial committee consisting of the ministers of defence, interior and justice to suggest measures to deal with and manage the emergency created by the crisis due to increased migratory flows.
An operational unit will also be set up under the supervision of the Search and Rescue Coordination Centre which will implement the decisions of the cabinet.
The government will also promptly inform the European Commission on the deterioration of the situation, the need for emergency measures and urgent assistance in dealing with the problem in line with the decisions taken for Lithuania and Poland, Pelekanos said.
The spokesman said the government is taking actions based on a holistic management of the migration issue with respect to human rights “but also the need to safeguard the security and interests of all the legal citizens of the country”.