Cyprus has received financial assistance from the European Union for additional refugee reception and hosting space to deal with the increasing influx of unregulated immigrants, Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said on Thursday.
Petrides told state television that one large or two smaller centers will be constructed with a total capacity of 1,000 people.
Cyprus has a permanent refugee center which has been upgraded to host 400 people on a long term basis, besides a reception center near the capital Nicosia and other accommodation facilities for short term hosting of immigrants.
Petrides said that despite the additions, not all asylum seekers could be accommodated in refugee centers, as their numbers currently stand at 15,000.
An additional 15,000 people have been accorded protection status, he said, adding that a program is being planned to integrate them into the labor market.
Petrides also said that plans have been drawn for a separate place at one of the reception centers to receive what he called “vulnerable groups” of immigrants, such as unaccompanied children and people susceptible to exploitation.
The minister repeated his warning that Cyprus cannot receive many more immigrants as it currently tops the list of EU countries with the largest refugee ratio relative to their population.
“There’s a limit on the number of refugees that a small country such as Cyprus could handle…Cyprus or other front line countries at the EU borders with difficult areas such as the Middle East, could not take all the refugee burden,” he said.
Petrides also repeated the joint demand by southern EU countries for the introduction of an automatic distribution mechanism in all EU countries and more readmission agreements with third countries.