An increase has been recorded in asylum applications from Syrians, who arrive mainly by sea and are difficult to manage as their country is an unsafe area and they cannot return by any mechanism, according to the Ministry of Interior that released on Thursday updated data on the migration issue. At the same time in November this year, there has been a significant drop in applicants from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Cameroon compared to the same month in 2022, according to the data.

New asylum applications from March to November 2023 reached 9,091, while in the corresponding period last year, the applications were 17,065, a decrease of 53%, it notes, adding that, in total, 21,565 applications were submitted in 2022 and 10,589 this year (excluding December), which was a 49% decrease.

Regarding the countries of origin, according to the data, in November 2023, 1125 asylum seekers were from Syria, compared to 318 in the same month last year, and 39 were from Nigeria, while last November 245 applications were submitted by people from the same country. The same pattern applies to applicants from the D.R. of the Congo with 29 asylum applications this year in November compared to 234 last November, and Cameroon with 11 asylum seekers this year and 116 in November 2022.

The Ministry notes that there has been a significant decrease in the number of Africans arriving in Cyprus this year, as a result of the measures that have been taken such as an information campaign carried out in Sub-Saharan African countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo) “with the aim of informing potential immigrants about the actual situation in Cyprus” but also faster examination of applications which has as a result the cutting off of benefits and access to work and thus making the country a less attractive destination.

At the same time, it said, there is an increase in applications from Syrians, who arrive mainly by sea, noting that “their management is difficult, given that their country is an unsafe area and they cannot return by any mechanism” such as voluntary return, or deportations.

The Ministry also notes that, “for the first time in the history of immigration in our country the balance of departures-arrivals of irregular immigrants shows a positive picture, with the percentage of returns on arrivals reaching 105%”. According to the data, the total number of irregular arrivals for 2023 amounted to 10,475 whereas for the corresponding period last year was 17,438 (60% reduction), while there were 11,040 departures in 2023.

According to the data, 17,438 arrivals were recorded in 2022 – 937 by sea and 16,501 through the buffer zone – while this year, up to December 15, there were 10,475 arrivals (3889 by sea and 6586 through the buffer zone).

In relation to the countries of origin of those arriving, for 2022, the top 10 countries as regards arrivals through the buffer zone were Syria, Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Somalia, Iran and Iraq. Accordingly, for 2023, the top 10 countries for arrivals through the buffer zone were: Syria, Nigeria, Cameroon, Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Iran and Liberia.

As for arrivals by sea, in 2022 they were from Syria and Palestine, while for 2023 they are from Syria, Palestine, Lebanon and Morocco with the vast majority of arrivals being from Syria, it said.

It is also reported that, between March-November 2023, 16,005 decisions were issued in total, including rejection decisions, subsidiary protection and residence decisions and decisions granting refugee status. Of the 16,005 decisions, 11,579 were negative, it says. It is added that, through a series of measures implemented, the time required to complete the examination of applications has been reduced from nine to 21 months to one to three months.

Regarding departures, 7,200 voluntary returns have taken place so far in 2023, compared to 5,100 last year (an increase of almost 71%). Overall, it said, departures, including voluntary returns, deportations and relocations, reached 11,040 in between January-November 2023 compared to 5,900 in the same period in 2022.

In addition, in the period from March to 15 December, a total of 1,680 relocations took place to other EU Member States through the relocation mechanism. Most relocations from Cyprus through this mechanism were to Germany, followed by France, according to the Ministry.

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