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Cyprus has shown sensitivity, president says after Syrian asylum applications suspended

migrants wait at a fishing shelter in paralimni
Migrants waiting at a fishing shelter in Paralimni last week

Due to the recent mass arrival of Syrian asylum seekers, and pending developments on the issue of the reassessment of Syria’s status and the designation of safe areas, Cyprus has decided to suspend the examination of asylum applications in all cases of persons of Syrian origin, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou reiterated on Sunday.

Speaking after a snap meeting of the National Security Council, he said the decision was also taken in the light of developments in the Middle East region.

“It was also decided to immediately withdraw their subsidiary protection status or reject applications from persons who have demonstrably travelled back to areas of Syria in the last 12 months through occupied areas,” Ioannou said.

These people will cease to have access to any rights deriving from the temporary protection regime and steps will be taken to repatriate them either by voluntary return or through compulsory expulsion when and if possible, the minister said.

“The situation is constantly being assessed and decisions will be taken on the basis of planning, depending on developments. The situation is under control and our actions are aimed at addressing potential risks,” he concluded.

Commenting on the same issue, President Nikos Christodoulides said it would be addressed at informal European Council in Brussels on Wednesday, where he “hoped that decisions would be taken”.

The move was first announced on Saturday night by Christodoulides in a post on Twitter.

We are in an extraordinary state of affairs, decisions are difficult,” he said but taken “within the framework of legality, which have a single objective: to safeguard the interests of the Republic of Cyprus, the Cypriot people.”

The Republic of Cyprus, he added, “has shown over time its sensitivities both to refugees and to difficult situations that exist in our neighbourhood and it is within this framework that we are responsible for the Cypriot people to take such decisions.

“I’ve said it for a long time, that we’re going to make decisions that some people might not like.

More than 1,000 people have arrived in Cyprus on boats from Lebanon since the start of April, while more than 2,000 arrivals were recorded by sea in the first three months this year, compared to just 78 over the same period in 2023.

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