CNA News

Cyprus in top EU rankings in migrant returns, says Interior Minister

Cyprus is among the first European Union member states in absolute numbers of returns of irregular migrants, Minister of Interior Constantinos Ioannou said on Thursday, adding that, taking into account that there is an increasing trend in returns for the month of November, for the first time the balance of arrivals and returns shows a positive picture.

Addressing the 2nd Meeting of the Monitoring Committees of Internal Affairs Funds for the 2021-2027 Programming Period, which took place in Larnaca, the Minister said that “Cyprus is one of the frontline Member States of the European Union and has been subject to intense migratory pressures over the years. Currently, 5. 4% of the country’s population are either applicants or beneficiaries of international protection,” he said.

Ioannou referred to what he described as an “important” measure to tackle illegal immigration, which is “the promotion of returns” and noted that the Ministry of Interior places high on its priorities, “the importance of strengthening the returns sector”. Since April, the number of asylum examiners has gradually more than doubled, which, combined with a 50% reduction in the number of new applications, has led to a 60% increase in the number of returns compared to 2022, he said.

The Minister explained that “by October 2023, 9,300 persons left Cyprus, compared to 5,800 who had left in the corresponding period of 2022”.

The issue of returns, the Minister continued, “requires coordinated action at the level of the European Union. We consider it essential to promote the conclusion of agreements with third countries, a measure included in the Eastern Mediterranean Action Plan and expected to contribute to the decongestion of Member States, especially those on the front line,” he said.

He also said that “for the 2021-2027 period, the European Commission has approved an increased allocation of 162 million euros for Cyprus under the Internal Affairs Funds programmes. This includes €134 million from European funds and €28 million from national funds. The Commission, acknowledging the disproportionate burden that migratory flows impose on Cyprus as a frontline Member State, has directly approved additional funds,” he pointed out.