The Asylum Service was drowned by Syrian applications for political asylum, with the Ministry of Interior speeding up procedures from nine months now shortened to three.

According to data from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11,300 Syrian asylum applications are currently pending for examination, out of a total of 28,502 pending applications, numbers disproportionate to the size of our country.

The government and especially the competent ministry are working on various solutions, after the sad incidents in Chloraka and according to information provided by «F», one of the measures decided is the following:

It will be a prerequisite, after the granting of subsidiary protection status to Syrians, to attend integration programmes into Cypriot society. That is, a Syrian who receives this status should know the language, history of the country, religion and other basic elements in order to be easier to integrate into Cypriot society. At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will attempt, through policies it will implement, not to encourage the ghettoization of areas so that Chlorakas phenomena are not observed.

It is noted that, at the moment, first in the list of countries of origin of new asylum seekers in Cyprus from January to August, is by far Syria, as 34% of applicants for international protection come from this country.

However, as far as the country of origin of asylum seekers is concerned, there is a sharp decrease in applications from nationals of African countries, such as Nigeria and Congo, and a parallel increase in applications from Syrian nationals. According to a competent official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the data for this year show optimism, since so far it appears that asylum applications have decreased to about 51%, while returns of third-country nationals to their countries of origin have increased significantly, as a result of the measures and actions taken.

The biggest work that is being done quietly concerns the time of asylum examination. Whatever measures are taken, irregular migrants will continue to come, either from Turkey via occupied areas or from Syria by boat on the east coast of Cyprus. The issue is for a migrant who will come to Cyprus to know that his application will be examined soon and he will have an immediate response, so that he does not «get lost» while waiting for a response from the Cypriot authorities to his request. As pointed out to us by the Asylum Service, previously an application for asylum could be examined even after one or two years. This resulted in the accumulation of a huge number of applications and, at the same time, the creation of a funnel through which immigrants passed, which is why no one knows today how many illegal aliens there are in Cyprus.

By speeding up procedures and hiring additional staff, we have an average of 1,800 cases processed per month, up from around 800 last year. In fact, last July, 2,013 applications were examined. Taking into account that new asylum applications per month average 800-900, it is possible to examine hundreds of the accumulated applications.

As pointed out in «F», the average examination of an asylum application has already been reduced from 9 months to 3 months, while in cases of accelerated procedures for manifestly unfounded applications, the examination period has been limited to one month from the date of submission of the application. In cases where there is a final negative decision either by the Asylum Service or by the Administrative Court of International Protection, all rights provided by the Refugee Law, such as access to benefits, the labour market, etc., are terminated.

President Christodoulides himself posted on social media, according to which this year there is an 80% increase in the processing of asylum applications per month compared to 2022.

The numbers of returns this year are quite encouraging. Those returned to their countries in 2023 number 6,214 and together with relocations (937 people to other Member States) this number rises to 7,151 by the end of August.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Measures for their integration into the local community

The Ministry of Interior, as mentioned to us by one of its officials, is also evaluating the part concerning measures that will help in the better integration of people who are highly likely to be granted international protection status.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to our information, is planning to introduce programs, co-financed by the EU (the resources are available from the EU Home Affairs Funds), which will be addressed to people who will receive international protection status, or refugee status or subsidiary protection, i.e. Syrians. Good practices from other countries are already being studied.

These programmes, as we have been told, will in essence on the one hand help these people to integrate into the local community, to adapt to existing rules, behaviours, values and to avoid their exclusion, since they will be granted the status on the basis of European obligations and will therefore coexist with the local population. On the other hand, in essence, these programs will indirectly help the local community itself to reduce ghettoization incidents or even behaviours that may lead to negative consequences for itself and its local population, or even to reduce incidents of violence.

Measures can be vocational training, learning the Greek language, learning the western way of thinking, religion and the history of the place, etc.

The issue is being monitored by a working group, which has already been set up on the basis of instructions from the Minister of Interior Konstantinos Ioannou, consisting of competent officers from the Asylum Service, the Civil Registry and Migration Department, the Aliens and Migration Service, as well as the Ministry of Labour. The terms of reference of the group are to examine the possibility of revising the policy regarding Syrian nationals, with the aim of properly managing those already in the Republic of Cyprus, as well as preventing further flows from Syria.

It is noted that Syrians are granted subsidiary protection status and not international protection. This status is granted because of the unstable situation in an area that once lifted, these persons can be returned back to. Refugee status is different and concerns when the person is personally persecuted. It is reported that no Member State has been able to return a Syrian national back to his/her country unless the decision was voluntary.

: The migration challenge

Migration is not today. Today, however, the situation mainly with Syrian refugees is at breaking point. There are thousands of Syrians in our country and the state must find ways to manage them.

Since no EU country has sent back any Syrians because it is still not a safe destination to return to, ways must be found to integrate them into Cypriot society. We have seen where ghettoization and the Chlorakas phenomena lead. We have a prime opportunity now to find solutions that show that we are a European state with respect for human existence. The pogroms are exaggerated, because we as a people simply know what refugee means.