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17-03-2022 15:09

Statement by the Minister of Interior after a broad meeting on the handling of arrivals from Ukraine

“Absolutely no Ukrainian who is in Cyprus today, who needs help, shall wait,” stated the Minister of Interior, Mr Nicos Nouris, pointing out that the Republic of Cyprus takes immediate action in order to provide any assistance requested, concerning either accommodation, food, or any other kind of assistance.

A broad officials’ meeting was held on Thursday, 17 March 2022, led by the Minister of Interior, in order to coordinate the competent government ministries and services regarding the handling of arrivals in Cyprus of Ukrainian nationals, including housing matters and social protection, access to the employment market, health care and education.

In statements to the press after the meeting, the Minister of Interior said that there is a “specific European Directive on the management of Ukrainians arriving in the member states after the 24th of February”.

“Cyprus has already conveyed its commitment and replied that it fully complies with the European Directive,” said Mr Nouris.

“Today we are here, a broad team of fellow ministers and technocrats, to examine the very specific issues relating to the need for harmonization with the Directive,” he said.

He noted that the first issue “concerns the procedures for the registration of Ukrainians in our country so that international protection is granted to them”. “The second issue concerns housing and social protection. The third one concerns access to work, access to health care and the issue of education,” he added.

Thanking all the Ministries that participated in the meeting, he informed that a simple specific procedure has been decided regarding Ukrainians who have arrived in the Republic after 24 February, who are now 6.024 persons. “In addition, in the Republic there are another 2.300, who were already in Cyprus as tourists or for other reasons, and obviously these people remained here”, the Minister said.

“So, we are talking about a figure that currently numbers around 8.000 persons in the Republic, for whom we will make specific proposals regarding their handling, in the next Council of Ministers”, Mr Nouris said.

He explained that all arrangements have been made and that announcements will be posted online, on the website of the Asylum Service of the Ministry of Interior, through which these Ukrainian nationals could be registered. On the same day, they will be receiving an approval for the specific permit electronically, by the Ministry of Interior. From there on, he continued, “they will have to proceed to the District Units of the Aliens and Immigration Services, so that their biometric data is collected, in order for a plastic card to be issued, which will be valid for up to 12 months – until March 2023 – as provided by the European Directive”. The card, he explained, will grant them all rights regarding health care, work, welfare benefits or housing policy.

“The Deputy Ministry of Tourism has already reserved around 3.000 rooms in order to be able to receive these people,” Mr Nouris said.

He noted that there will be coordination with the competent Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare “so that families are directed, according to their profile, to these accommodations”. Moreover, he added that “the Deputy Ministry of Welfare will announce the benefit policy method, which will be submitted to the next Council of Ministers for approval”.

Regarding the right to work, he said it is granted to everyone without exception upon presentation of the particular card. He informed that employers wishing to employ Ukrainian nationals would be able to declare their intention on a specific platform of the Ministry of Labour and the occupations they are interested in.

Upon presentation of the specific card, Ukrainians will have the right to be employed, in the same way as Cypriots, EU community nationals and/or third-country nationals, he added.

“The right to health care is provided without any problem at all by the competent Ministry of Health,” he said.

Commenting on the issue of education, which Mr Nouris described as very serious, he said that “there is a need for a special regulation in relation to the capacity of schools to receive specific numbers”.

“It is something that is handled by the competent Ministry and all the necessary arrangements will be made so that in case an intention of interest is expressed, children under the age of 18 – which is our obligation – can be allocated in various schools,” the Minister of Interior said.

Asked by a journalist whether there is a timetable for the implementation of these decisions, the Minister underlined that “the timetable applies as of now”.

“The decision stemming from the meeting is that absolutely no Ukrainian who is in Cyprus today, who needs help, shall wait” and noted that there is no need to await for the Council of Ministers’ formal decision next week.

“For those people who may turn up and are in need today, whether they need housing, food, or any other assistance, this will be exceptionally provided,” he said.

“And of course, as soon as the registration of people in the system, that I announced before, proceeds, then we will know the profile of the flows,” he said. He added that it will be known who are in the category of singles or families, how many children there are, how many men and women there are, and decisions will be made accordingly.

“It is imperative to know exactly the profile of these people who are today in our country,” he said, noting that at this time this is not known, however, “we will know this in the next few hours”.

“The Republic of Cyprus responds immediately, as it has already done so in previous days. And those in need of any kind of assistance, will be provided with assistance immediately without, I repeat, waiting for the decision of the Council of Ministers on the basic issues of food and housing,” the Minister concluded.

The meeting was attended by the Ministers of Labour and Social Insurance and Education, Culture, Sport and Youth, Ms Zeta Emilianidou and Mr Prodromos Prodromou, respectively, the Deputy Minister to the President, Mr Kyriacos Koushos, the Deputy Minister for Social Welfare, Ms Anastasia Anthousi, the Commissioner for the Citizen, Mr Panayiotis Sentonas, and other officials from competent ministries and services.