Some 25 additional examiners have been hired by the Asylum Service to reduce processing times of applications, Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou said Monday.
Ioannou said bolstering the service’s workforce was crucial to the government’s strategy to address the migration challenge.
He said the government’s policies have been bearing fruit, as recent data reveals that over 1,800 applications are now being processed monthly, compared to the 1,000 average in 2022.
The workforce now numbers 82 people, following the recent additions and another 27 examiners hired in April.
The minister said the government is fulfilling President Nikos Christodoulides’ pre-election commitment to bolster and expedite the asylum application process.
“We have already doubled the number of examiners, and with the addition of 25 more.
“We anticipate processing around 2,300 applications per month,” said Ioannou.
The new recruits will eventually be helping to address a backlog of 30,000 pending applications.
During a briefing on Monday, the recruits received an induction to the service’s objectives and tasks for managing asylum applications.
They will undergo intensive training to be ready to commence their duties at the beginning of November.
“Due to the faster processing of applications, access to benefits and work for rejected asylum seekers has been discontinued, while the process for voluntary return to their country of origin was promoted.
“The swift processing of applications serves as a deterrent to new migrant arrivals, contributing to a 50% reduction and a corresponding 50% increase in returns.
“We have reduced the processing time from three months to one, discouraging potential migrants from coming to Cyprus.
“With the examination and the possibility of rejection, benefits and access to the labour market are also terminated.
“From April to the end of August, we witnessed a 50% decrease in asylum applications compared to last year, down from 12,000 to 5,800 this year.
“Simultaneously, returns have increased by 50%, rising from 3,200 to 4,800,” Ioannou said.
He confirmed the ministry is in daily communication with Lebanese authorities regarding Syrian refugees heading for the island from Lebanon.
Ioannou said the government is awaiting Lebanon’s response to cooperation proposals for enhancing maritime monitoring capabilities.