NICOSIA (Reuters) - New asylum seekers to Cyprus will be excluded from a re-settlement scheme to another EU member state to stop any abuse of the system, authorities said on Wednesday.
Strategically placed at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus has been struggling with a surge in irregular migration in recent years.
Under a voluntary EU burden-sharing scheme, Cyprus last December started allocating small numbers of asylum seekers to other member states which signed up to offer assistance, including France, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania.
Authorities said that limiting an individual's access to the re-settlement programme would act as a deterrent to future arrivals. It would apply to people seeking international protection and who arrived in Cyprus from January 2023.
"The purpose of this policy is to ensure that the re-settlement programme is not attracting nationals of specific countries who, possibly abusing the system, are using Cyprus as a transit to other EU member states," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
According to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Cyprus received 4,828 new asylum applications until May of this year, compared to 21,565 for the whole of 2022.
While 2023 arrivals were down, there has been a recent rise in arrivals from Syria by sea, the Interior Ministry said.
(Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by Angus MacSwan)