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Amid spat, Elam proposes to gain support to halve asylum application time

parliament building
File photo: Cyprus Parliament building

Far-right Elam have put forward a draft proposal to halve the amount of time refugees have to file asylum applications or appeals in the court, which seems to be gaining ground with government-supporting parties.

The proposal the party put forward to the house legal committee on Wednesday. According to the proposal asylum applicants would have only 15 days to appeal decisions by the Asylum Service and seven days to file appeals for asylum to court.

Elam MP Sotiris Ioannou said that the increase in migrant flows and the exploitation of the system by some have created unfavourable conditions in the country and that these mechanisms need to become much more effective in managing the issue.

Government-supporting party Diko MP Panicos Leonidou said that these changes were for the benefit of the migrants, who would get their applications processed quicker.

Meanwhile opposition Akel MP Andreas Pasiourtides called that in 2020 there was this discussion again about a bill by the executive to reduce the time limits for asylum applications to 30 days and 15 for manifestly unfounded ones, and the time limit for appeals to be 14 days.

This, he said, had been approved by both the Legal Service and the justice ministry at the time as a reasonable time, but also based on decisions of the courts the time limits that currently exist were considered reasonable and that they also safeguard the constitutional rights of applicants.

“Beyond that, migration is not an issue that can be solved by reducing the time limits for access to justice,” he said, but it is something broader and must be considered holistically.

The spokeswoman of the justice ministry Phaedra Gregoriou said that the ministry is not involved in the implementation of the legislation, and therefore, provided that this amendment is indeed in line with European law, and the services involved do not have any practical or other problems, the ministry has no reason to object.

The representative of the Legal Service said that the time limits set were purely a national matter, and the EU law allows for member states to make shorter times for applications.

The rep added that any legislative proposal must comply with the frameworks established by relevant EU directives, and referring to the principle of effectiveness, he said that any asylum seeker should not be prevented from having access to the courts and that no specific time limit was set in EU law.

The representative of the Asylum Service of the interior ministry, Yiannis Karagiorgis said that what they are asking is to look at the issue holistically and not only whether the service can respond to this issue, but whether all the services involved can respond, in case the deadlines are reduced, with the issue of deportations.

The representative of UNHCR noted that it was not the effectiveness of the courts that was being considered, but the effectiveness of access, and therefore the timing was important.

The rep explained that, in order to be able to appeal effectively, one has to pay €96 for the appeal, while the benefit that these people receive is much lower, from €28-€74 per month, and that the cases that reach the court are those of people who were previously under immigration status, not refugees.

Refugees, the rep added, when they enter Pournara they do not get a benefit, so they do not have that money to appeal and this point, he said, is being judged now for Cyprus and its effectiveness.

He said that if these people can apply in a month, there is a window for them to receive some benefit and decide to deprive themselves of food to apply to the court.

When there is a seven or 15-day deadline there will not be that window “and it will be certain that the appeal will be ineffective,” he said.

However, after the meeting, Ioannou said that most of the government services agreed with reducing the time limits, and only Akel was raising issues.

Another far-right Elam idea was also passed by the government recently, when President Nikos Christodoulides announced all Syrian migrant applications would be frozen earlier in the week.

Elam was quick to take credit for Christodoulides decision in an announcement the day after.

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