Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou on Monday spoke of the need to promote and implement an EU action plan aimed at keeping the migratory flow to Cyprus under control.

On the back of his participation in the EU Council of Justice and Home Affair in Brussels last Thursday, his first official duty since his appointment as interior minister, Ioannou told state broadcaster CyBC that the measures aimed at curbing the migratory flow should respond to Cyprus’ needs.

“We are facing increased migratory pressures, due to our geographical position. Proportional to our size, the number of migrants arriving in Cyprus is the largest among EU member states,” he said.

“We have exhausted our capabilities to manage the flow. Therefore, we do need a specific action plan for the Eastern Mediterranean region.”

Ioannou said a specific plan tailored to Cyprus’ needs, will ensure tangible results, taking into account the particularities of the region and “the destabilising role of Turkey”.

“There is no doubt that our problems are directly affected by Turkey’s actions, since most of the migrants make their way into the Republic from the north,” Ioannou said.

He added that the EU should seek to introduce specific measures targeting, among others, traffickers and airlines transporting unaccompanied children.

He also called for an increase in returns of migrants to their countries of origin.

“Only in this way will there be tangible results that will actually relieve Cyprus from its burdens,” Ioannou said.

He then added that a number of domestic measures on the issue are being introduced, such as the upgrading of the migrants’ reception centres in Pournara and Kofinou and the hiring of additional officials tasked with examining asylum applications in Cyprus. The latter, he added, is set to take place in May.

The Anastasiades government left the new interior ministry with 21,565 pending applications for political asylum it was reported on Sunday.

According to daily Politis, from November 2, 2018 until January 22 more than 41,283 people passed through the Pournara reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia.

Of these, 32,889 were men and 8,394 were women.

The top ten countries of origin of the migrants that passed through Pournara are: Syria (12,159), Nigeria (5,739), Congo (5,129), Pakistan (3,853), Cameroon (3,136), Bangladesh (2,466), Somalia (2,080), Afghanistan (2,002), Sierra Leone (903) and Guinea (546).

However an improvement was seen in terms of returning those who do not qualify for asylum, with 7,500 migrants sent home in 2022, most of them voluntary, compared to 2,320 in 2021.

This increase in returns was achieved, according to the ministry, with the conclusion of agreements with countries of origin, as well as due to the assistance of EU and Frontex.