1. Programme strategy: main challenges and policy responses
Cyprus, a front-line Member State in the Eastern Mediterranean route, has been faced with disproportionate migratory pressure for the past 5 years. This increase in arrivals continued in 2019, 2020 and 2021 and currently Cyprus has the highest number of arrivals per capita in the EU. Despite the overall decrease in arrivals to the EU, in Cyprus from 2014 until the first trimester of 2020, new arrivals raised dramatically and reached 34000 compared to 14440 in the previous 5 years. Despite the intensive efforts of Cyprus and the assistance received by the Commission and EUAA the number of flows continues to be alarming.
The main objective of AMIF is to contribute to the efficient management of migration flows, strengthening the development of an asylum system, contributing to effective integration and social inclusion of Third Country Nationals, enhancing effective returns systems and enhancing solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility between Member States.
The asylum procedures in Cyprus are in a constant process of alignment with the EU acquis. National strategy centres on the prompt examination and management of the back log of applications for international protection and the effective reception and housing of applicants for international protection.
The main challenges identified by Cyprus authorities and EU partners and for which investments are to be made are:
- Effective and timely implementation of asylum procedures.
- The full and timely implementation of endorsed Standard Operating Procedures, in line with what has been agreed with national authorities and European Commission, and in line with EUAA Standards.
- Improvement of data management system(s), covering all stages of the asylum procedure.
- Developing a broad Reception System.
- Developing a comprehensive reception strategy with clear and concrete objectives.
- Effective inter-agency cooperation (and clear responsibilities), especially in relation to vulnerable groups.
- Reinforcing the capacity of the authorities responsible for asylum and migration issues.
- Improve access to information for asylum seekers pertaining to their rights and obligations, including legal and reception procedures.
From the national challenges, as previously described, AMIF will specifically contribute to the following:
- Support of reception capacity.
- Effective and well-functioning management structures for relevant authorities throughout the reception/asylum system.
- Improve information exchange through the continuation of the upgrade of the Asylum Service database.
II. Legal Migration and Integration
As far as legal migration is concerned, the persisting migratory pressure, has put the administrative capacity of the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD) under severe pressure resulting in backlog and delays that negatively impact the services provided to Third Country Nationals.
In the area of integration, in addition to ensuring the successful integration of already residing non EU nationals, Cyprus is tasked with enabling the integration of newly arriving migrants, incoming at continuously increasing numbers. Integration efforts will be targeted mostly to migrants with a high recognition percentage and those who have been granted legal residence, without of course excluding those who are in the early stages of the migration process.
The main challenges identified are:
- Limited access to housing.
- High unemployment rates amongst migrants.
- Limited accessibility to services, due to language barriers and insufficient training of staff.
- Enhancement of existing educational and language programmes, which need to expand both in quantity and in nature as to respond to the increasing demand.
- Lack of awareness in host society.
From the national challenges, as previously described, AMIF will focus its contribution to:
- Upgrading the administrative capacity of the CRMD.
- Integration measures by local communities/NGOs, including screening, profiling, counselling etc.
- Preparatory actions to facilitate access to the labor market.
- Measures targeting the education sector/ language courses.
- Update, monitoring and evaluation of the national integration strategy/ Action Plan.
Despite the significant increase of returns operated by Cyprus in 2022, the rate remains disproportional related to the exponential growth of migratory influx.
The main challenges inhibiting the stepping up of returns and in a sustainable manner, pertain to:
- Effective and timely implementation of asylum procedures (see policy area of Asylum).
- Reinforcing the capacity of the authorities responsible for return procedures.
- Improving the effectiveness and scope of Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration programmes.
- Using already existing readmission tools, EU agreements and other arrangements in place, expanding new bilateral agreements with countries of interest, additional implemented protocols with countries already having agreements with EU.
- Utilizing the opportunities offered by the EBCGA.
- Increase detention capacity.
- Establishment of effective returns mechanism.
From the national challenges, as previously described, AMIF will contribute to the following:
- Implementation of AVRR programme in all stages of the management of irregular migration, including at first reception and detention facilities.
- Removal/return operations.
- Independent monitoring of forced returns.
- Support and improvement of detention facilities.
- Pilot projects on effective alternatives to detention.
- Enhancement of the administrative capacity of the authorities responsible for return.
Solidarity and fair responsibility sharing are essential for the effective management of disproportionate migratory pressures faced by front line Member States such as Cyprus.
- The implementation of future bilateral agreements between Cyprus and EU 27+ for voluntary relocation programs from Cyprus to the EU 27+.
- Supporting the Asylum Service in establishing contacts with a number of EU countries with the purpose of relocating applicants with high percentage of recognition or vulnerabilities.
2. Potential beneficiaries under AMIF
Potential beneficiaries of the AMIF, are relevant public bodies who hold a de jure responsibility to form and regulate the policy of Cyprus regarding the areas covered by the AMIF. Relevant partners also include local authorities, NGOs, academic institutions, international organizations and any other body that may have an impact in the area of migration: