Procedures have been set in motion to help some 8,000 Ukrainians who have come to Cyprus as refugees or are stranded here because of Russia’s invasion of their country, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Thursday.
“No Ukrainian who is in Cyprus and needs help will have to wait,” he told reporters after a high-level meeting to coordinate actions by the various government departments.
Nouris said 6,024 Ukrainian refugees have come to Cyprus since February 24, while another 2,300 or so are stranded here, having come to the island before Russia’s invasion either as tourists or for other reasons.
Cabinet will approve specific programmes to provide assistance at its meeting next week, but authorities will provide help immediately, pending such decisions, he said.
An EU directive is in force for Ukrainians who arrived in member states after February 24, and Cyprus has already replied that it is complying fully, he said.
The expanded meeting with ministers and technocrats focused on specific issues relating to Cyprus’ harmoniSation with this directive, he added.
The first issue is registering Ukrainians in Cyprus so that they can be afforded international protection. The second is housing and social protection and the third access to work, and health care and the issue of education.
Ukrainians will be able to register on an interior ministry website from where they will receive a permit that will automatically give them the right to work and to medical care, as well as for allowance and housing benefits.
Announcements will be made on the asylum service of the ministry where the Ukrainians can register and receive approval the same day. They can then contact the district offices of the aliens and migration department so that their biometric data can be taken for the issue of a plastic card valid for 12 months.
All card holders will be automatically entitled to work in Cyprus and employers interested in offering jobs to Ukrainians can state their interest online and the professions they are seeking on a labour ministry platform.
The deputy ministry of tourism has already blocked 3,000 hotel rooms for housing, while the deputy ministry of welfare is working on a benefits programme that will be submitted to cabinet, he added.
A key priority is to determine the age and family grouping of the Ukrainians here so that housing and other needs can be covered, the minister said.
As regards education, he said the relevant ministry would coordinate so that where there is an interest schools can take in pupils. This applies to those under 18, he clarified.
Asked whether there was a time frame for the decisions, he replied: “The time frame is now. No Ukrainian who is in Cyprus and needs help will need to wait for the cabinet decisions,” he said.
“For any person who may apply and need help today, either housing or food or any other help, this will be provided by exception,” he said.
Once the registration is underway, authorities will have a picture on whether the affected individuals are single, families, how many are children, and decide accordingly.
Taking part in the meeting were the ministers of labour and education Zeta Emilianidou and Prodromos Prdromou, undersecretary to the president Kyriakos Koushos, deputy minister for welfare Anastasia Anthousia, Commissioner for the Citizen Panayiotis Sentonas and other officials.
On Wednesday a coordination meeting was also held at the foreign ministry to arrange a second package of humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
According to a tweet post by the foreign ministry, the package includes food aid, medicines, medical supplies and Civil Protection equipment.