Cyprus suspends processing of Syria refugees asylum applications News
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Cyprus suspends processing of Syria refugees asylum applications

Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides announced on Saturday that the Mediterranean country had suspended processing asylum applications from Syrian nationals.

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), Christodoulides announced that the decision was made “in light of recent mass arrival of Syrian political asylum seekers by sea” to Cyprus. According to UNHCR Cyprus, the number of asylum applications by Syrians has risen to more than 6,000 in 2023, accounting for more than 50 percent of the total number.

The announcement comes amidst the government’s campaign for the EU to reconsider the status of Syria. On April 5, Annita Demetriou, President of the House of Representatives, wrote a letter to request greater support from the EU to effectively manage the migration flows to Cyprus. At a meeting amongst European leaders on Friday, Christodoulides called for an immediate review of the status of Syria and the designation of specific safe areas.

The campaign began in 2023 when asylum applications reached a seven-year high. According to the EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA), Cyprus was under the highest pressure from migration flows relative to its population size. At the International Forum for Refugees in 2023, Konstantinos Ioannou, Minister of the Interior, mentioned that the percentage of new asylum seekers and protected persons in Cyprus had reached five percent of the population, far exceeding the EU average of 1.5 percent. Ioannu said this has exerted substantial pressure on the island nation’s infrastructure and hospital system.

Currently, EUAA designates most of Syria as controlled by armed groups. Although the agency stresses the need to consider protection needs individually, 13 groups of individuals are identified to be at risk under the general guidance framework. Last year, 94 percent of Syrian asylum seekers were granted subsidiary protection or refugee status in the EU.