Cyprus Sees Immigrant Departures Outpace Arrivals by 138%

Title: Cyprus Leads EU in Immigrant Departure Rates, Implements Robust Immigration Policy

In a recent press conference, Cyprus’ Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou unveiled the 2023 immigration report, revealing that the country now leads the European Union in the rate of immigrant departures compared to arrivals. Furthermore, Cyprus ranks fourth in the total number of returns and expulsions.

Minister Ioannou praised the government’s immigration policy, citing a significant 37% decrease in immigrant arrivals and a 50% reduction in asylum applications within one year. He emphasized the importance of continued efforts in partnership with international organizations to maintain this trend.

A key component of Cyprus’ strategy is the voluntary return programme, which has seen a 66% increase in departures in 2023. This initiative offers immigrants financial incentives of €1,000 to €1,500 to return to their countries of origin, depending on the country. In the last month alone, there were 782 arrivals contrasted with 1,081 departures—a departure rate exceeding arrivals by 138%.

The Minister acknowledged the challenges faced by Cyprus due to immigration pressures on Eastern Mediterranean EU states. The Pournara First Reception Centre had exceeded its capacity with over 3,000 occupants, and pending asylum applications had topped 30,000 in March 2023.

Ioannou outlined the government’s holistic strategy to manage immigration, focusing on reducing new arrivals, expediting asylum application processes, improving accommodation and reception conditions, and increasing the number of returns.

Addressing irregular migration from Sub-Saharan Africa, Ioannou noted that economic prospects, rather than safety concerns, often motivate migrants. To counter this, Cyprus has launched an online campaign in countries such as Nigeria, Cameroon, and Congo to communicate the real conditions in Cyprus and is working on an Eastern Mediterranean Action Plan to mitigate unregulated migration from Turkey.

The government has urged the European Commission for stricter controls on arrivals via Istanbul Airport and has collaborated with Frontex and Europol. Measures to make Cyprus less attractive include reducing financial benefits and tightening work permit regulations for asylum seekers.

Additional steps taken include increased surveillance in industrial areas to prevent illegal employment, a crackdown on trafficking networks, and the formation of a specialized police unit dedicated to these issues.

These initiatives have contributed to the noted reductions in arrivals and asylum applications. Ioannou highlighted a remarkable 72% decrease in young African asylum seekers in Cyprus and reported efforts to speed up asylum application reviews. The goal is to reduce the average processing time from a year to three months and eventually to 30 days by 2024.

Minister Ioannou concluded by emphasizing that the expedited review process is a deterrent for those who might abuse the system seeking long-term residence and employment in Cyprus. The country’s proactive stance on immigration demonstrates its commitment to maintaining a balanced and effective approach to this complex issue.


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