UNHCR suggests fast-tracking asylum claims to ease pressure

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Cyprus should adopt accelerated procedures to review asylum applications to tackle increased refugee and migrant flows, UNHCR spokesperson Emilia Strovolidou told CNA.

The UN Refugee Agency official said instead of using deterrence, Cyprus should focus on how to manage the problem.

“The most important thing is to review asylum applications the soonest possible, in a just and effective way,” Strovolidou said.

She argued a distinction needs to be made between refugees and economic migrants.

According to the data, UNHCR retrieves from press reports, a total of 859 people arrived in Cyprus from January 2020 and 340 in the past two weeks.

Most of them come from African countries, such as Cameroon and Somalia, Strovolidou said.

Strovolidou said that most of them entered through the Athienou region, in the Larnaca District while some passed through the broader Nicosia region at Astromeritis and Kokkinotrimithia.

Official data shows that in 2019 there were on average 1,000 asylum applications every month. This number is not very different from what is happening today, she added.

The UNHCR Public Information Officer also said that her office assists the Asylum Service in establishing the necessary procedures that will accelerate the review process of asylum applications.

“What we suggest is to have a first screening, in order to separate applications into well-founded and ill-founded ones. More complex cases should follow the regular procedure.”

An accelerated procedure has already been implemented in the case of Georgian applicants and as a result, asylum applications have been reduced, Strovolidou said.

She said that all asylum applications need to be reviewed while the Asylum Service is being reinforced with EASO personnel with another 110 people are expected to staff the Service by the end of 2020.

Reinforcing the Asylum Service and putting in place an accelerated procedure to review applications may bring about the changes the Cyprus government is looking for, Strovolidou said.

“This way, Nicosia will be able to send out a strong message to people who exploit asylum procedures.” (source CNA)