More than 700 asylum seekers recipients of welfare benefits were found to have secured jobs and their grants will be terminated, deputy minister for social welfare Anastasia Anthousi said on Thursday.
Checks are also being carried to determine whether, during the time they were receiving benefits, the asylum seekers were working and receiving social insurance from their employers.
She was speaking to the media after a House interior committee meeting on policies to manage migration flows. To a comment by a reporter that the wider population felt many migrants were exploiting the system, Anthousi said instructions were clear from the beginning that benefits should be given to people who needed the support.
With the highest number of asylum applications per capita in the EU, Cyprus is struggling to cope with an influx of irregular migrants which had led to severely overcrowded reception facilities. The government has been pressing the EU for more help, as well as action to stem arrivals via Turkey and the buffer zone.
Anthousi noted that individuals who leave Pournara reception facility should register with the department of labour within a month. A grace period was given, together with a warning that benefits would be suspended until they do register.
Social workers are also carrying out spot checks at addresses given by the asylum seekers, with benefits again being suspended when individuals cannot be found so that beneficiaries would present themselves to the authorities “to see where they are.”
Regarding criticism of conditions at Pournara, Anthousi said that a number of services are involved with the migration issue and the management of asylum seekers.
Pournara is run by the asylum service, and the deputy ministry is there as guardians for unaccompanied minors to help in procedures until they are completed.
“Our responsibility is to ensure a decent life, and to guide them within the system when procedures are completed.”
MP Kyriakos Hadjiyiannis said that although Cyprus was adhering to a policy of hospitality based on the rule of law, the system was being abused. A whole ‘parallel state’ has emerged that has led the problem to balloon, he alleged. As an example, he cited the case of underage and unaccompanied minors, saying many were encouraged to say they are minors so as to receive more favourable treatment of their applications.