The labour ministry on Wednesday clarified that asylum seekers are no longer permitted to work within the first nine months of their arrival.

The Cyprus chamber of commerce (Keve) had sought clarity on cases it dubbed as “grey zones” and the labour ministry obliged.

The ministry explained that an automated notification system had been implemented, which allows for employers of asylum seekers to be kept up to date regarding the rules and the situations regarding their employees.

With this in mind, employers who employ asylum seekers whose applications are rejected are now automatically informed by email.

In addition, employers are not able to register asylum seekers as employees if their applications have been rejected or if nine months have not passed since their applications were submitted.

Speaking on CyBC’s morning programme, Keve labour relations officer Andreas Alexis had earlier said businesses were caught up in a “conflict between authorities” for employing asylum seekers whose applications had been rejected, while they were obliged to make social security payments for such employees.

“Keve has previously requested from the ministry to clarify these grey zones as regards asylum seekers’ right to work,” Alexis said. He went on to claim that there were unclear cases, such as when an asylum seeker’s application was rejected, but the applicant filed for appeal.

The Keve spokesman explained that employers were looking for ways to minimise the fallout from the sudden clampdown on illegal migration.

“In many sectors foreign workers make up the majority of the work force,” Alexi said.

In the mining industry the percentage stands at 100 per cent; in the hotel industry 59 per cent; in catering and farming 55 per cent; and in construction 47 per cent, the Keve rep detailed.

He highlighted the plight of businesses which take on workers only to abruptly find out their application is rejected.

“We are asking for help in replacing these workers, during this transitional stage,” Alexi said.

The hope is for the labour ministry to streamline the process so that an employer who loses staff in this way can pursue an expedited procedure to replace the departing asylum seeker with a legal third country national on temporary work visa, via a pre-approval scheme.

Speaking on the same programme Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou, was at pains to make clear that under no conditions may an asylum seeker be employed during the first nine months from arrival.

“The goal is to do away with illegal employment,” the minister said, and “convenient illegality” can not be allowed to continue.

Applications are now examined in as little as one month and if accepted, the person becomes legally entitled to work. If rejected, even if an appeal is filed, the person is not allowed to work, the minister said.