Cypriot Interior Minister Nicos Nouris says the government is determined to cut down on asylum and residence permit applications by blocking economic migrants from filing non-legitimate petitions.
The interior minister said in an interview with Kathimerini published on Sunday that a number of colleges in the Republic of Cyprus are a “breeding ground” for asylum applicants.
Nouris said he was aware of how some colleges operated, suggesting that educational institutions were involved in the rise of asylum applications among international students.
“They came to Cyprus because they didn’t need a visa or they got one as foreign students who then took the ‘asylum route’ at the end of the academic year instead of renewing their studies,” he said, adding that another "asylum route"’ for non-bona fide asylum applicants, whom he described as economic migrants, was seeking residency status through marriage.
Cyprus was recently under harsh criticism from a number of foreign embassies that accused the government and local municipalities of not doing enough to shut down a fake marriage industry.
Aradippou municipal authorities in Larnaca district were accused of officiating marriages between Latvian women and men from India, Pakistan, and Nepal, while legal documents or marriage licences were never issued by Latvian authorities.
Additional reports said the embassies of Romania and Portugal had also raised questions of due diligence, with media stories pointing to at least one married woman who got married to three other men in Cyprus using a different name each time.
Nouris says the government will push ahead with stricter guidelines that would impose new regulations at the technical level regarding civil marriages.
“In the coming days we will conclude some technical procedures and then send to the House specific amendments on marriage law in order to prevent the phenomenon of sham marriages, which has become a huge problem that leaves a blemish on the Republic of Cyprus,” he said.
New detention facility
The minister also said a new detention facility was in the works next to the Pournara camp in Kokkinotrimithia, in rural Nicosia.
The new grounds, which will include a fully-enclosed facility, will be able to host 500 individuals who have pending applications, with annual operating costs estimated at 2 million euros.
“It will be a closed-type facility in accordance with the return policy established through Frontex,” Nouris said.
The minister insisted that individuals at the new facility would be guests and not detainees.
“We will not detain people, I want to emphasize this, we will simply host them,” the minister said.
Last month, Nouris said the most pressing migration issue had to do with the proliferating flow of economic migrants, besides a considerable influx of refugees who enter the Republic of Cyprus through the north.
The minister said after the government reached out for assistance from the EU, it has been told “in no uncertain terms” that Frontex help on returns would not be possible if the island failed to convince its European partners that it had the numerical capacity to host applicants in the first place.
Last year, members of parliament were up in arms over an asylum bill amendment aimed at banning automatic deportations for refugees who file for protection out of fear of their life.