NICOSIA — While Greece is known as the top spot for refugees and migrants wanting to get into a European Union country, Cyprus was among the bloc’s states that receive more asylum applications in 2019 than when they began arriving by the millions in 2015.
The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) 2020 report found that applications across the region rose by 11 percent, to 738,425, with another 16 percent hike in the first two months of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
The report said Cyprus had one of the sharpest increases in the number of applications in 2019, a 76 percent spike compared to 2018, The Cyprus Mail said, with the island country last year getting 13,650 asylum applicants compared to about half that in 2018.
Cyprus also had the biggest relative backlog, the paper said, with more than 2,000 pending cases for every 100,000 inhabitants and 18, 795 cases pending at 2019’s end, an 85 percent jump from 2018.
The report said that Cyprus, Greece and Malta “were under the highest pressure, reasonably as a result of a persisting inflow of asylum applications. In relative terms, Greece and Malta also had many more open cases than the rest of the EU+ countries, but less than one-half that of Cyprus,” the report said.
In 2019, Cyprus granted refugee status at first instance to 150 people, 23 percent fewer than 2018 and subsidiary protection to 1,150 cases marking a 13 percent increase from 2018. Some 2,000 applications were rejected, 56 percent more than in 2018.
Cyprus, along with France, Greece, Malta and Spain, received more asylum applicants in 2019 than during the migration crisis of 2015, it said.
For arrivals by boat, the report said Cyprus generally received relatives of Syrians who have been granted subsidiary protection, “possibly because this status in the country does not allow for family reunification.”
Cyprus was also among some other frontline member states recording the largest increases from 2018 to 2019 as regards asylum application withdrawals along with Greece, Italy, Slovenia and Spain.
The EU also provided financial and operational support toward developing a plan to deal with the numbers of refugees and migrants, with the EASO office on Cyprus providing special support there since 2014.