New asylum applications dip 50%

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There was a 50% reduction in new asylum applications between March and October compared to 2022 as deportations increased, the Interior Ministry said.

For the first time, the overall balance of arrivals-returns presents a positive picture, and Cyprus is now ranked first among European states in absolute numbers of returns.

Preventing flows, speeding up the procedures for examination of asylum applications, safeguarding the existence of adequate reception infrastructure and increasing the number of returns are the pillars on which the Interior Ministry focuses for effective migration management.

Following its budget presentation before parliament, the Interior Ministry points out that a series of actions have been implemented to achieve the goals, including hiring additional asylum application examiners, and Cyprus now employs more than double the number (82).

The ministry said that as a result, there was a reduction in the time required to complete the application review process from 9-21 months to 1-3 months.

It said the authorities can now examine more than 2,200 applications per month, compared to 1,200 applications examined in the same period last year.

Pending applications in October were 26,700 from 30,350 last April.

Last year, 15,155 applications were submitted, compared to 7,673 this year.

In addition, arrivals via the Green Line from sub-Saharan African countries have dropped by 75%.

This reduction was made possible through implementing a series of measures, such as an information campaign in African countries (Congo and Nigeria) and more intensive and better checks carried out on flights from Istanbul in collaboration with EU border agency Frontex.

There was an extension of the exclusion period of access to the labour market to nine months and stricter controls to crack down on illegal employment.

Regarding returns, the Ministry of Interior said there has been an increase in people who choose to return voluntarily to their country of origin, from 4,900 until October 2022 to over 6,000 people this year.

Overall, the number of departures, which includes voluntary departures, deportations, and relocations, has increased by 60% up to October.

In absolute numbers, 9,300 people left Cyprus this year, compared to 5,800 last year.

Figures show that for November, the upward trend for returns is continuing.

From 1-24 November, there were 685 returns and deportations, while for the entire month of November 2022, there were 626 returns/deportations.

Emphasis is being placed on implementing the Eastern Mediterranean Action Plan to manage flows effectively.

Several measures included in the Action Plan have been implemented in Cyprus unofficially in recent months.

Nicosia has started the discussion at the EU level on re-evaluating the status of Syria and describing specific areas in the country as safe.

Such a development will significantly help to promote the return of Syrians who do not meet the conditions for securing refugee status.