NICOSIA, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- Cyprus plans to change its strategy and procedures on handling immigration in order to deal with the increasing number of people arriving in the eastern Mediterranean island, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris said on Tuesday.
He told a private radio station that the planning, which will be submitted to the Council of Ministers soon for approval, mainly relates to economic unregulated immigrants, who under existing legislation are not entitled to asylum.
Nouris said that the accumulated applications for asylum has reached 34,000, or 3.8 percent of the total population living in the government controlled part of Cyprus, which was estimated at 898,000 in January, 2020. This number includes over 100,000 foreign nationals, coming mostly from Britain and some other EU countries.
The ratio of asylum seekers in relation to the population of other EU countries, including Greece and Italy, which also face a large influx of immigrants, is below 1 percent, the minister said.
Nouris said that in a bid to deal with the increased numbers of asylum seekers, the government will create a "closed center" for immigrants where asylum seekers will be kept while their applications is being under consideration.
"The aim is to have each application replied in no more than 28 days. Immigrants will be given all privileges provided for by European Union and United Nations rules. Those who will be found to be not entitled to asylum will be quickly returned to their countries," Nouris said.
He added that the aim is to enable authorities to manage refugee and immigrant influxes so as to give social welfare services the possibility of giving the full range of protection facilities provided for those entitled to asylum and make easier their integration into the society.
Latest data showed that the number of pending applications for asylum reached 13,000 in 2019.
New asylum seekers in 2018 reached 7,761, with 26 percent of them coming from war-torn Syria. But during that year, a large influx of people described as economic immigrants arrived in Cyprus from countries which do not face war or internal strife, such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Cameroon and Sri Lanka, with a ratio of 40 percent of total arrivals.
In 2017, the ratio of immigrants from these five countries was only 25 percent, with those coming from Syria representing 39 percent of asylum seekers. Enditem