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Cost to Cyprus of increasing numbers of migrants increasing exponentially

pournara 06
Photo by Christos Theodorides

Opposition lawmakers on Tuesday urged authorities to curb the flow of irregular migrants, pointing out that the cost to state coffers is increasing exponentially.

Committee chair of the House ad hoc committee on demographics and Elam MP Linos Papayiannis said that in 2020 expenditures for the Pournara reception centre for asylum seekers stood at €550,000. That amount more than doubled in 2021, and a similar trend is expected this year.

Regarding public order and security, the MP said that last year about a third of narcotics-related arrests involved either irregular migrants, asylum seekers or recipients of protection status. He cited police data, according to which in the Famagusta, Nicosia and Paphos districts the offenders included drug pushers as well as drug users.

Papayiannis spoke of a “paradox” where a Cyprus citizen not covered by the general health system (Gesy) must pay out of pocket, while the taxpayer is saddled with healthcare expenses for migrants.

A representative of the state health services organisation (Okypy) told the committee that so far this year some €500,000 has been allocated for health-related costs (tests for coronavirus and other diseases) and injuries to people residing in Pournara.

The official said that all required medical tests are carried out once a person crosses into the territory of the Republic. The test results are forwarded to the Asylum Service. Where a person tests positive for a communicable disease, these cases are handled by health agencies.

But the same official conceded there were flaws in the follow-up of these cases.

Papayiannis said some steps have been taken with regard to better security along the Green Line – through which the vast majority of irregular migrants cross into the Republic. But more needed to be done.

According to the interior ministry, every day approximately 100 migrants enter Cyprus via the buffer zone.

“If this country is to stand any chance, it must among other things become a non-hospitable destination,” Papayiannis remarked.

“Right now illegal migrants advertise Cyprus as an attractive destination, and unless the government cottons on, then all these discussions are futile.”

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