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Interior minister welcomes EU funding to improve facilities for irregular migrants

migrant sits outside the kokkinotrimithia refugee camp on the outskirts of nicosia
File photo. Pournara

Cyprus is to receive €72m in EU funding which will be partly used to construct the first pre-departure centre for rejected asylum seekers and irregular migrants, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Friday.

The funds will also go to the improvement of the existing reception centres, he said – adding that the policy on increasing returns will be greatly enhanced by the latest round of EU funding.

The minister said he had lobbied the EU and subsequently the EU commission on Thursday approved the added funding, recognising the efforts of the government to manage the migration issue.

He reiterated that the government is pressing ahead with its three key policies to bring the issue under control – enacted from January 1 – namely that: asylum requests be swiftly reviewed, preventing crossings from the Green Line, and increasing the rate of returns.

Nouris reiterated that Cyprus’ asylum system and its capabilities to welcome and receive the arrivals has been greatly surpassed, once again blaming Turkey for facilitating their crossing via the Green Line.

Cyprus recorded the highest number of first-time asylum applicants relative to the population in the EU in 2021, with 14,799 first-time applicants per million residents, according to a Eurostat report released in March.

The figure is several times above the EU average of 1,196 first-time asylum applicants per million population.

Nouris has repeatedly stated that the Republic faces about 100 crossings from the Green Line each day.

Elsewhere, parliament last April voted in favour of massively hike fines against those found smuggling people into the Republic. That changed the law so that people who are paid to transport others across the sea in an unsafe condition, either due to the vessel being dangerous or overcrowded, will no longer simply face a misdemeanour but will instead be subject to up to 12 years in prison and/or a fine of up to €100,000.

But a series of other measures such as announcing a list of ‘safe countries’cracking down on sham students and others have so far failed to limit the number of irregular arrivals.

The government has consistently blamed Turkey for instrumentalising migration against the Republic by allowing thousands to fly into the nation and later permitting their arrival to the occupied Tymbou airport on student visas – only to later cross over the Green Line.

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