President Nicos Anastasiades listens to a migrant behind the fence of the Pournara refugee reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia in March 2022

5,000 asylum applications in three months

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Members of parliament heard an Interior Ministry representative that the Asylum Service in Cyprus had received some 5,120 applications in the first three months of the year.

The Deputy Director of the Asylum Service, Yiannis Soteriades told the members of the House Interior Committee that by comparison, in 2021 a total of 12,600 applications by asylum seekers had been submitted.

Soteriades said that there are 2,680 migrants in the overcrowded Pournara reception centre, adding that when it comes to unaccompanied children, investigations get underway to determine if human trafficking is involved.

The interior ministry official also said that as regards trafficking, 36 people were arrested, including Syrians, Lebanese, German, French, Turks and a Cypriot.

He added that in 2019 there 417 were returned, 1,272 in 2020, 2,320 in 2021 and so far this year 1,373 have been sent back.

International protection

By the end of March, 261 unaccompanied minors had applied for international protection.

Soteriades was quizzed by MPs on the disappearance of 11 unaccompanied minors from the Pournara reception centre.

He said that these children have not yet been located, while some have been missing since 2019.

Last month, children’s rights commissioner Despo Michaelidou criticised conditions for unaccompanied minors at the Pournara reception centre as “miserable” and “unhygienic”.

Also addressing the committee, Deputy Minister for Social Welfare, Anastasia Anthousi, said that the state is making an effort to provide better accommodation for minors, moving them out of Pournara.

There are, she said, some 40 minors who are still at the reception centre, despite the fact that the initial procedures have been completed, while agreeing with MPs who pointed out that better coordination is needed between the involved services.

On behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Olga Komiti, commenting on relevant reports, pointed out that according to EU statistics, 92% of Afghans and 91% of Syrians who are seeking asylum, prove to be indeed refugees in need of international protection.