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UNHCR: Mediterranean states need support to manage refugee flows

October 15, 2019 at 7:27pm
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The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is following very closely the massive humanitarian crisis in Syria and considers that Cyprus, as well as other Mediterranean European states need support and solidarity from the other EU member states with a view to effectively manage the refugee flows, Public Information Officer of the UNHCR office in Cyprus Emilia Strovolidou told the Cyprus News Agency.

Reception facilities in Cyprus are under serious pressures, due to the increasing number of refugees’ arrivals, she added.

Responding to questions by CNA, in view of the situation in Syria and the expected new flows of refugees, Strovolidou expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis, noting at the same time that refugees must be protected “because at the end of the day it is no one’s choice to become a refugee.”

Referring to Cyprus, Strovolidou said that “strategic planning is needed to address the current challenges,” noting that “the Reception Centre in Kofinou is full and therefore the reception capacity and the reception facilities must be reinforced.”

UNHCR’s latest Desperate Journeys report, published on Monday noted that from January to September 2019, some 80,800 people arrived in Europe via Mediterranean routes – down from 102,700 in the same period of 2018. Of those who arrived, more than a quarter were children, many travelling without their parents.

According to the report, an upward trend in the numbers of new asylum applications continues in Cyprus, meaning that Cyprus has received the most applications per capita in the EU.

So far in 2019, 1,200 people have arrived by sea alone, while some 6,600 new asylum applications were made in the first half of the year. Around half of the new asylum applicants had resided in Cyprus on other immigration statuses and come from South-East Asian countries while the other half had arrived irregularly, either by boat or via air routes, including to the northern part of Cyprus. Among the latter, the majority were from Syria, Cameroon and other African countries.

Reception capacity is stretched and the backlog in asylum processing continues to increase, the report noted.

Strovolidou said, referring to Cyprus, that “housing continues to be a huge issue for the asylum seekers and in combination with the delays in the examination of asylum applications which pile up pressures on the whole system become more intense.”

“Cyprus is already facing pressures. The numbers of refugees not only from Syria but also from other counties have grown during that last years. Therefore, by drafting a comprehensive strategic plan and through continuous evaluations of the measures taken, the Republic of Cyprus must continue to move on, improve reception facilities and focus on the social inclusion of people who remain here,” he added.

Strovolidou said that UNHCR cooperates with the competent ministries and departments of the Republic of Cyprus, discussing about the increase of arrivals. “We underline during all meetings the need to have a plan and we provide our support to the authorities to address the needs,” she noted.

Moreover, she said that some measures have been taken and the number of the Asylum Service staff has increased while the EASO office supports the whole process in order to implement better and faster asylum procedures.

Moreover, Strovolidou said that UNHCR has provided help with a view to improve the living conditions of those living in the Reception Centre in Kofinou.

The UNHCR officer noted that the current situation in Syria leads to more pain and to the displacement of more people, noting that the Syrian refugees hosted mainly in countries that neighbour Syria are up to 5.6 million while those displaced inside the country amount to 6.2 million.

“We support Syrian refugees since the beginning of this crisis, we follow the situation very closely and we share the concerns expressed by the UN Secretary General about this crisis”, she noted, stressing the need for organisations to have access in order to be able to provide help to the civilians.

(Cyprus News Agency)