Nicosia to toughen asylum procedures

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The Law Commissioner’s Office is preparing a bill to speed up asylum seeker applications and introduce penalties if they violate their terms of stay.

The Interior Ministry requested tighter time frames for examining applications by authorities, while the asylum seeker will personally have to appear before the court.

And if an asylum seeker violates the conditions of their stay on the island until their application is examined, they will lose all entitled benefits.

One of the changes to be implemented will see state services involved in examining applications connected through an online platform.

Law Commissioner Louiza Christodoulou Zannetou said that although the task is challenging, it is more than necessary for the Republic at a time when asylum seekers make up 6% of the population.

There is a backlog of 28,392 cases to be examined, while 7,771 cases are before the International Protection Administrative Court.

Zannetou said the law regulating asylum seekers needs to be refreshed as stakeholders say it has become tangled up with continuous amendments.

“The Law on Refugees was last amended in 2000.

“It has been 22 years since then, with several amendments being made and EU directives incorporated,” said Zannetou.

She said her office would be looking at the model applied in Greece, where similar problems had arisen with large numbers of refugees arriving in the country.

“We need to take care while untangling the law to remain in line with EU directives and international conventions.

“At the same time, however, the overwhelming number of pending applications submitted daily forces us to find the legal ways to handle these cases both at the administrative and judicial level”.

Zannetou added that government departments dealing with asylum seekers must be better organised and undergo continuous training.

The government claims that asylum-seekers comprise an EU high of 6% of the island’s 915,000 people in the Republic – a record figure across the EU.

This year, 4,019 migrants who had their asylum applications rejected have either been deported or voluntarily repatriated.

Until October, 18,345 have applied for asylum, from 13,325 for the whole of 2021.

More than 1500 asylum applications are received every month.