As a November 23 deadline approaches, the number of applications for 300 jobs policing the island’s 180-km long buffer zone against irregular migration has fallen short, with 147 people in total showing an interest so far.

Speaking before the House finance committee on Friday, police chief Stelios Papatheodorou said that the submission of applications expires on November 23 and that an extension may be granted due to the reduced interest.

In May, the interior and justice ministries requested that 300 contract police officers be hired for up to 28 months as the state steps up its efforts to tackle irregular migration across the buffer zone.

The stated aims are to secure the 24-hour surveillance, checking and escorting irregular migrants and securing holding centres.

It is not immediately clear whether the officers would be able to prevent the crossings from taking place due to the Republic’s obligations under UN treaties securing the right to seek asylum.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris has said that 92 per cent of irregular arrivals take place across the ceasefire line. He added that in the first few months of 2022, his ministry had returned 1,645 illegal migrants from the over 7,000 who arrived.

The cost of the extra personnel would amount to annual total salaries of €7.8m, while a further €1.1 million would be required to kit them out and an added €1.2m is required for vehicles.

A number of lawmakers have expressed concern that the expediated hiring procedures could lead to a lack of oversight and undertrained officers taking on serious duties in sensitive areas.

Elsewhere, parliament last April voted in favour to 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 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 of 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.