During the pandemic, Cyprus received more than 7,000 applications from asylum seekers last year with Syrians making up a quarter of the total, said Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.
He held a video conference Thursday with Ola Henrikson, Regional Director of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Regional Office for the EU, Norway and Switzerland.
An official statement said the Minister briefed Henrikson on the migration influxes in Cyprus and discussed the prospect of strengthening cooperation with the IOM in finding effective ways for voluntary returns and reintegration of third-country nationals to their countries of origin.
Nouris pointed out that Cyprus is first among the EU states for the number of asylum seekers it receives in proportion to its population.
He briefed the IOM Regional Director on how migrants enter the Cyprus Republic from the Turkish occupied areas.
Nouris also informed Henrikson on initiatives Cyprus is taking to address the increased pressure from the migrant inflows, including the readmission agreement with Lebanon and other countries.
And recent legislative measures to speed up the return procedures of people whose asylum applications have been rejected.
Cyprus uses the program of assisted voluntary returns and reintegration of third-country nationals for their safe return.
A new pilot scheme is underway for housing vulnerable migrants to ‘ghetto areas’ being created.
Cyprus has urged Brussels to make the redistribution mechanisms “fairer” so that Mediterranean states which are receiving the majority of migrants do not have to host all those who arrive.
Nicosia also wants the bloc to properly enforce the 2016 deal between the EU and Ankara so any migrants ineligible for asylum could be sent back to Turkey or their own countries of origin more quickly.
According to the Asylum Information Database, supported by the EU, in 2019 there were 13,259 asylum claims filed.
By the end of that year, 17,171 cases were still pending, only 147 people had been granted refugee status and 1,149 subsidiary protection.
Some 2,053 had been rejected with the rejection rate in Cyprus at 61.3% in 2019.