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Migrant centres to house Syrians waiting for asylum (Updated)

a general view of pournara refugee camp in kokkinotrimithia on the outskirts of nicosia
The Pournara refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia

Syrian migrants arriving in Cyprus will from now on be taken to one of the migrant reception facilities to live, following a decision to cut all stipends given to them and delay examining their asylum applications, it emerged on Monday.

According to permanent secretary of the interior ministry Loizos Hadjivasiliou, Syrian migrants will be housed in the Kophinou reception centre.

Speaking to Cyprus Mail, sources close to the ministry said that at first Syrians will be given beds in Kophinou and when that facility fills up they will be sent to Pournara in Kokkinotrimithia.

Hadjivasiliou clarified that during their stay in these facilities they will receive food.

He clarified that government will accept Syrian asylum applications but they will not be examined until a maximum EU time limit of 21 months has passed.

“Previously these persons would have completed the processing in Pournara and would have been released into the community, receiving benefits as asylum seekers and also receiving subsidiary protection status, based on the fact of the assessment of Syria as an unsafe country,” he said.

He added that now anyone arriving in Cyprus will “automatically” be denied everything for 21 months, aside from food and shelter.

Hadjivasiliou admitted this course of action is being taken to also buy time for Cyprus to continue to promote some areas of Syria as a safe destination in the EU, to allow Nicosia to send Syrians back.

“We are at an advanced stage to make this change and they [migrants] should know that there is this uncertainty [in coming here],” he said.

Hadjivasiliou added that there are currently 10,000 pending applications for Syrian migrants.

According to a report in Philenews the asylum service immediately archived all applications from Syrians as of Monday and cancelled all scheduled interviews.

Speaking later in the day, a representative from the European commission said that they are in contact with the Cypriot authorities over the high number of migrant arrivals.

“We are there to support the Cypriot authorities,” she said.

The spokeswoman said that they are looking into the matter and are in cooperation with Cypriot authorities about the decision on the Syrian migrants.

She added that they support Cyprus, but they understand that the decision will remain in effect for a short time at the moment.

On Sunday, a migrant boat arrived with 22 people on board. They will be kept under the latest decisions of the government.

Commenting on the same issue on Sunday, 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 X.

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.

Earlier this year, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou had discussed a campaign launched to make Cyprus less attractive to sub-Saharan migrants.

The campaign seems to currently be being expanded to the Middle East.

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