The government on Tuesday promised to tweak the criteria governing housing assistance schemes for refugees and displaced persons, with MPs hearing that 25 per cent of applications have been denied in the recent period.

Elikkos Elia, permanent secretary at the interior ministry, said they’re working on amending the assistance eligibility criteria. The revised criteria should be ready by October, at which time the ministry will bring them to parliament for feedback and final decisions.

“With your help we shall find the best methodology. The interior ministry is open to suggestions,” the official told MPs.

The matter regained traction after complaints that about a quarter of applications for assistance filed to the relevant department got rejected for one reason or another.

The department deals with applications for government assistance to refugees for home purchases, rent subsidies and the issuance of title deeds.

Anna Sakka, director of the department, said they’re trying to cut down on the time it takes to process applications.

For the Nicosia district, average processing time has dropped from 14 months to 11. In Larnaca processing time now averages at seven months.

Limassol was the worst, averaging at 19 months to process an application. For example, this month the department will review applications filed back in November and December of 2022.

Speaking to the media after the session of the House refugees committee, chair Nikos Kettiros (Akel) said the government appears to have taken on board some of the committee’s suggestions made in the past.

Regarding the means-testing of applicants in particular, Kettiros stated that the interior ministry has agreed that applicants on higher incomes would not be automatically disqualified from assistance – as was the case until now. Rather, they would still be able to apply, and if approved would receive a lower amount of assistance than normally.

In addition, regarding applications for title deeds, applicants would be afforded more time. For example, instead of the time counting from the signing of the home purchase contract, it would now count from the date on which the residence is connected to the electricity grid.

On the other hand, the interior ministry does not agree with demands for increasing the amount of the state grants to refugees.

But Kettiros said that MPs will “keep fighting for this” as they believe it to be a fair demand, given the rising cost of living in general.