More failed asylum seekers being returned

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Authorities are stepping up efforts to repatriate failed asylum seekers to alleviate pressure on reception centres and social welfare.

According to police data, this year (up until August 19), 3,680 foreign nationals seeking asylum were either deported or returned to their countries voluntarily, compared to 2,320 in 2021 and 1,272 in 2020.

In 2019, deportations were limited to 417.

Police spokesman, Christos Andreou, told Phileleftheros daily that deportations or returns concerned mainly people from Syria, the Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Although people seeking asylum from Georgia have been on the rise in recent months.

In comments to the Financial Mirror, Loizos Michael, an Interior Ministry press officer, said authorities are concentrating on repatriating third country nationals who have either had their asylum application rejected or are from countries with no evident risk.

Last month, the Interior Ministry signed a memorandum of agreement with Pakistan on the readmission of Pakistani nationals, while another deal with Vietnam is in the works.

This year, Cyprus sent lists of 2,000 persons to Pakistan for readmission, while a list of 700 was sent to Vietnam.

As Michael explained, the agreement with Pakistan entails the implementation of an online system which will fast-track the readmission process of nationals from Pakistan.

“Until recently, it would take months, if not more, for authorities to get the all-clear from Pakistan to repatriate Pakistanis who had their applications rejected.

“The country has to acknowledge that the persons in question are indeed nationals of their country and will take them back.”

The system automatically confirms the identities of Pakistani nationals, allowing Cypriot authorities to speed up repatriations.

The Interior Ministry official said Cyprus is working on signing agreements with Georgia, while draft agreements have been drawn and sent to Nepal, Bangladesh, and India.

Next in line will be African nations, such as the Congo.

Since last year, the Ministry of the Interior has established an office responsible for the return of migrants.

Michael also said that authorities had implemented an incentive plan to encourage voluntary returns among third-country nationals.

A lump sum is given to those who agree to return to their country, targeting mainly people from countries with no obvious risk.

Financial Mirror has been told by asylum seekers taking the deal that the sum ranges from €1,000 to €2,000, depending on whether they have had their application rejected.

Sham marriages

Michael further confirmed that the government and the police have been cracking down on fake marriages.

Some 1,500 sham marriages were annulled in 2022 after evidence was found proving them to be fake.

Michael confirmed that authorities are looking into networks bringing in brides from EU member states to marry them off to asylum seekers in exchange for money.

“Just a few months ago, a plane full of brides from Romania landed at the Paphos airport, with officers on the ground refusing entrance to some passengers after they had admitted they were on the island to marry migrants,” said Michael.

Cyprus has seen applications for political asylum almost double this year compared to the same period last year, while new applications within 2022 have covered the whole of 2021.

More than 1500 asylum applications are received every month.

As estimated by the Interior Ministry, 4.6% of the population are asylum seekers, and the majority of them come from countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.

Until July, 13,818 have applied for political asylum compared to 13,325 in the whole of 2021.

However, in the same period last year, 7,006 applications were submitted.