Cyprus minister says his nation leads EU in repatriations and migrant arrivals are down sharply

20231223 004007 jpg

Cyprus is the first European Union member country to repatriate more migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected than have arrived in a single year, the east Mediterranean island nation’s interior minister said Thursday.

Constantinos Ioannou told the state broadcaster that over 11,000 migrants have been repatriated so far this year, more than double the number from 2022. That ranks Cyprus 4th in repatriations among all EU states in absolute numbers. About two-thirds of those repatriations were voluntary.

But Ioannou said a deal EU leaders reached on Wednesday on new rules to control migration falls short of Cyprus’ demand for compulsory relocation of migrants from front-line states under strain from increased arrivals, to other bloc members.

He said on the upside, the deal foresees that EU members refusing to take in migrants from a front-line state must pay that country 20,000 euros ($22,000) for each migrant.

Ioannou said the Cypriot government’s tougher approach to migration has paid off in making the island nation a “less attractive economic destination” for migrants who don’t qualify for either asylum or international protection status.

In the last nine months, overall migrant arrivals have been reduced by half relative to last year, especially those crossing over from ethnically divided Cyprus’ breakaway north into the internationally recognized south to seek asylum.

According to official statistics, asylum applications so far this year reached 10,589 compared to 21,565 for all of last year.

The minister said part of the measures aimed at reducing migrant arrivals is the slashing of the time it takes to process asylum claims to a maximum of three months, instead of years in many instances, resulting in failed applicants to lose allowances and the right to work.

An information campaign geared toward sub-Saharan African nations has also proven successful as have appeals to Turkey to better screen would-be migrants at its airports from where they would fly to Cyprus’ breakaway north.

Although overall migrant arrivals are significantly down, arrivals by sea this year almost quadrupled – from 937 last year to 3,889 this year. Almost all the seaborne arrivals are Syrians.

Ioannou repeated that Cyprus is still trying to get fellow EU members to revise the status of parts of Syria as safe zones so that at least some Syrian migrants can be repatriated where they won’t be in harm’s way. [AP]

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024