The suspension of examining asylum applications from Syrian nationals is the activation of Cyprus’ Plan B in the face of increasing migrant arrivals and is legal, competent sources told the Cyprus News Agency on Sunday.

The same source said that Cypriot authorities have already informed the relevant Directorate General of the European Commission.

At the same time, a conference is set to be held in Cyprus with member states that share Cyprus’ request to designate some areas of Syria safe, thereby allowing the rejection of asylum applications and potentially the repatriation of applicants.

Suspending the examination of applications for subsidiary protection will put pressure on Syrian smugglers, creating uncertainty, the source continued. Currently, Syrians are automatically entitled to subsidiary protection status.

The suspension of the examination means that applicants will enter a shelter with the authorities providing them with food and housing, while they will not be granted housing allowance. It also means that after nine months on the island they will not be allowed to work.

Cyprus is currently seen as an attractive destination and these measures aim to create disincentives.

At the same time, designating areas of Syria as safe poses a high degree of difficulty, as this will have to be decided by the European Council (member states), and some states do not recognise the regime of Bashar al-Assad and would not like to negotiate with him so that there is a return mechanism.

Despite a return agreement being signed with Lebanon signed in 2022, it has only accepted returns only a handful of times and has recently said it will not take any more back.

The source told CNA there is an action plan which will be rolled out depending on developments, which can be activated in stages.

According to data from the interior ministry, total arrivals this year (via the north and by sea) until April 13 reached 3,681, a slight increase over the 3,522 in the period January-April 2023.

However, there has been a surge in sea arrivals, which by April 13 this year reached 2,698 compared to just 180 arrivals in the January-April period last year.