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Cyprus’ Refugee Asylum Backlog Continues, Some 19,660 Pending

NICOSIA — Despite its proximity to the Mideast and Turkey, where refugees and migrants have flocked trying to get to the European Union, Cyprus has largely escaped a mass influx but said the number of asylum applications has grown to 19,660.

That came after another 7,036 more were submitted in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic was spiraling, said UNHCR Cyprus, the United Nations’ agency in charge of refugees.

The statistics were updated based on figures provided by the government’s Asylum Service and the Refugee Reviewing Authority which continued to operate until December 2020 to clear its backlog, said The Cyprus Mail.

But the pandemic slowed people coming to the island so much that applications fell 44.7 percent from 2019, when 12,724 were submitted. Of those applied for in 2020, there were 220 behalf of unaccompanied or separated children.

The top ten countries of origin of new asylum-seekers in Cyprus in 2020 were Syria, India, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Nepal, Georgia and Egypt.

In 2020, the government’s Asylum Service and the Refugee Reviewing Authority granted refugee status to 172 people and subsidiary protection status to 1,512, the paper said.

The vast majority of Syrian applicants, 1,404, were granted subsidiary protection status with 21 granted refugee status in 2020, given priority as fleeing from their country’s civil war that’s unrelenting.

The five main nationalities of persons receiving international protection from 2002 to December 2020 were Syrian, Palestinian, Iraqi, Iranian and Somali, while most rejections related to applicants from Pakistan, Georgia, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria.

From 2002, when the Cyprus government took over refugee protection responsibilities from UNHCR, to December 2020, it received around 87,589 asylum applications, with 20 percent granted international protection and the rest given subsidiary protection status, the report added.

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