Competent services need to cooperate more effectively to tackle the phenomenon of seasonal farm workers quitting their jobs to claim asylum in Cyprus, the House agriculture committee heard on Tuesday.

Yiannakis Gavriel said this is the third time since he has chaired the committee that issues facing farmer-employers when it comes to finding seasonal workers are discussed, with the four ministries involved in the process offering no input or suggestions on how to solve the problem.

“The issue is that foreign workers, who come to Cyprus on seasonal contracts to work on farms, abandon their jobs to then apply for asylum and work illegally,” he said.

To illustrate his point, he said that if for example a potato farmer employs four seasonal workers and three of them abandon the job, then the employer will not be able to hire new ones until the cases of those who left are investigated.

“You understand how dangerous and scary this parameter can be for farmers,” he said.

Gavriel added that the committee has offered “four clear recommendations, but it looks like the four relevant ministries cannot collaborate to find a solution”.

The suggestions include the fast-tracking of asylum applications, increasing penalties for those who employ illegal workers, and increasing police checks.

Gavriel said that while complaints about illegal workers are made to the police, “they either cannot or will not visit the specific businesses reported”.

If there is a will there are many ways, he added.

“We have called on the executive to consider the suggestions of farmers’ unions, but also the House agriculture committee, so that the issue will be tackled swiftly”.

Elam MP Linos Papagiannis referred to a “huge problem,” saying things have not changed in the past six months and that there needs to be a consultation between the four ministries involved and the government.

“The situation is difficult and at the end of the day, the everyday farmer pays for it,” he said, adding that excuses prevail despite a myriad of available solutions.

He also said that there is no other country in Europe that faces similar problems.