Plans were announced by the government on Thursday for the creation of a new deputy ministry of migration and asylum.

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou explained that the new deputy ministry will aim to better deal with the issue of migration and offer better protection to those legally migrating to Cyprus.

He later explained that asylum services and the migration services would now fall under the jurisdiction of the new deputy ministry.

Speaking directly on the issue of migration, Ioannou said that the number of people “returned” between March and May more than doubled compared to the same period last year, while noting that the number of migrants arriving in April and May fell for the first time in years.

He noted that this fall in arrivals came in part due to external circumstances but also due to “the measures which the Republic of Cyprus is taking together with the European Union”.

The cabinet approved a law to create the new deputy ministry, which the government says will “apply a complete migration and asylum strategy under one roof” while also respecting Cyprus’s European commitments and human rights.

The government says that the new deputy ministry will contribute to a more effective administration of the various factors which relate to migration and asylum, while setting out a list of priorities.

The list includes the prevention of irregular flows of migrants, the fight against human trafficking networks, the acceleration of processes regarding asylum applications, especially in those cases which are “obviously baseless”, and the improvement of the conditions of migration centres.

This acceleration of the process will be helped by Ioannou’s announcement that the government intends to double the number of asylum officers.

Having been approved by the cabinet, the bill to create the new deputy ministry will now be voted on in parliament. Ioannou said that this vote will take place “as soon as possible”.