Cyprus is among the EU member states that received more asylum applicants last year than during the migration crisis of 2015, according to the latest Easo Asylum Report 2020 published on Thursday.
According to the European Asylum Support Office (Easo) report for 2020, last year, applications for asylum in EU+ countries rose by 11 percent, which translates to 738 425, followed by a 16 percent increase recorded in the first two months of 2020.
The report said that Cyprus had one of the sharpest increases in the number of applications in 2019, to the tune of 76 percent compared to 2018. Last year, Cyprus received 13,650 asylum applicants compared to around half that number in 2018 and one third in 2017.
The top country of origin of applicants by 20 percent, was Syria, the report said.
Cyprus is also the country that faced the most significant relative backlog, with over 2,000 pending cases for every 100,000 inhabitants.
According to the data given, 18, 795 cases were pending at the end of last year, an 85 percent increase compared with 2018. The top country of origin for these pending cases was again, Syria.
The report said that Cyprus, Greece, and Malta “were under the highest pressure, reasonably due to 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,” it said.
Last year, Cyprus granted refugee status at first instance to 150 people, which is 23 percent less than 2018 and subsidiary protection to 1,150 cases marking a 13 percent increase from 2018.
It also rejected almost 2,000 applications last year, which is 56 percent more than in 2018. The top country of origin of people whose applications were rejected was India, the report said.
Cyprus, along with France, Greece, Malta, and Spain, received more asylum applicants in 2019 than during the migration crisis of 2015, it said.
It added that urgent measures were put in place to address an influx of migrants, disembarkations, and rising backlogs of pending cases while endeavoring to protect the rights of asylum seekers and share responsibility amongst member states.
Despite that there were five times as many applications for international protection than detections of illegal border crossings at the external border in 2019, the report said, “border countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, and some Western Balkans countries detected an increase in illegal border crossings compared to 2018.”
As regards arrivals by boat, the report said that 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 other frontline member states recording the most significant increases from 2018 to 2019 regarding asylum application withdrawals and Greece, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain.
In contrast, withdrawals decreased in some of the so-called destination countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Sweden.
The report said that countries responded to changing migratory patterns by introducing new measures or practices throughout the year to ensure effective implementation of the European asylum acquis.
To address increased needs in Cyprus, the EU also provided financial and operational support for developing an action plan for effective migration management. It added that Cyprus Easo has been providing exceptional support to the country since 2014.
Easo also said that its asylum support teams, which comprise seconded experts from member states, were deployed on the ground to provide rapid and direct support by assisting in asylum processes, clearing existing backlogs, and training national staff.
As part of this, in 2019, more than one-half of all registrations in Cyprus, Greece, and Italy were handled with Easo’s assistance.