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06-07-2023 11:06

Address by the Minister of Interior, Mr Konstantinos Ioannou, at the Accommodation Centre for Applicants of International Protection, in Kofinou

It is with great pleasure that we visit the newly upgraded Accommodation Centre for Applicants of International Protection in Kofinou, made possible with the invaluable support of the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA).

Our joint visit with Ms Nina Gregory, Executive Director of the EUAA, and Ms Beate Gminder, Deputy Director General in DG Home, signifies the completion of the center's construction works and the beginning of its operational phase, scheduled to commence in nearly two weeks’ time when it will start accommodating residents.

EUAA has provided significant support by supplying pre-fabricated housing and office units to meet the growing needs of the Center during a period of continuous migration flows towards Cyprus, which highly impacted our reception capacity.

The development of this center will soon move to another phase, where its capacity will significantly increase, enabling us to accommodate approximately 700 residents. The second phase is anticipated to be completed by the first semester of 2024.

As I mentioned in our meeting today with Nina Gregory, the substantive and continuous assistance provided by the EUAA to the Cypriot authorities in various aspects of the asylum and reception procedure, including manpower, expertise, training, technical support, and equipment, is highly appreciated. Undoubtedly, the EUAA has been one of our most valuable partners in our efforts to efficiently manage the increased and disproportionately large migratory flows towards the island over the past few years.

Pending the final agreement on the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum and with the uneven distribution of asylum applicants across the EU member states, EUAA faces the challenge of establishing uniformity in asylum and reception procedures among member states with different national asylum policies, practices, and mechanisms. The raising of quality and harmonization standards can only result to the strengthening of the overall trust in EU asylum procedures and contribute to the establishment of the common European asylum system.

Improving reception and accommodation infrastructure remains a top priority in the current government's migration policy. In addition to enhancing the Kofinou Accommodation Centre, we also have other important projects underway. These include constructing an Accommodation Centre for Applicants of International Protection with 1000 residents and a Pre-Departure Centre in Limnes, with approximately 800 capacity. The European Commission financially supports these projects with a contribution of €67,6 million.

At the same time, the First Reception Centre, “Pournara” in Kokkinotrimithia, is also undergoing an upgrade, with direct financing from the Commission to IOM Greece.

These ongoing projects are of major significance as they aim to improve the living conditions for residents, enhance the management and efficiency of asylum procedures, and facilitate the return of migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected. They are important milestones in our efforts to strengthen Cyprus's capacity to manage migration flows effectively.

In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude to the EUAA and personally to Nina, not only for their contribution to the Kofinou Centre but for their continuous support towards Cyprus during the last challenging years. I extend my appreciation to the EUAA office in Cyprus, particularly to Francesco and the entire team, for their invaluable support and excellent cooperation. I look forward to further strengthening our cooperation to achieve even more tangible results.

Finally, I would like to take the opportunity of Mrs Gminder’s presence today to extend the Government’s sincere gratitude to the European Commission for its unwavering support. The solidarity displayed by the EC and EU Agencies is truly valued and deeply appreciated.

In addition to EUAA and the European Commission, I would also like to thank the Asylum Service, the Technical Services of the Ministry of Interior, the Nicosia District Officer, the Department of Land and Surveys, the Department of Town Planning and Housing, the Department of Electrical and Mechanical Services, and all others who played a role in the rapid implementation of this Accommodation Centre in Kofinou. Many thanks to the Cyprus Police and the Local Authority of Kofinou for their cooperation, support, and assistance.