South Cyprus interior ministry crack down on ‘fake’ students coming to the country to seek asylum or engage in fake marriage

The interior ministry has proposed a bill to further clamp down on ‘sham students’ which could lead to a hefty fine of €250,000.

The bill also seeks a 15-year prison sentence for agencies or individuals who assist foreign nationals in gaining entry to Cyprus under the false pretences of attending tertiary education – when their true intention is work, or other activities such as ‘sham marriages’.

Owners and directors of the colleges would also be responsible to report students that ‘fade away’ – such as systematically not turning up to classes or drop out entirely – within 30 days.

Many people from all over the world apply to colleges in Cyprus and gain student visas which guarantee easy access to the island.

Over the past year, the government has brought in controls to combat a surge of students coming to Cyprus ostensibly to study but who end up claiming asylum.

Most notably, in mid-June, Interior Minister Nicos Nouris unveiled sweeping new policies aimed at containing and managing the influx of asylum seekers.

A visa clampdown ushered in by the government sought to restrict the number of foreign nationals that could be enrolled at each college, which drew condemnation from some in the higher education sector.

The association of private tertiary education institutions, said millions in foreign currency have been lost as each college has already returned hundreds of thousands of euros to students who had prepaid their fees.

“The cabinet decisions are wrong; they have created many problems and have catastrophic consequences,” they said.

But Nouris has recently said only 57 asylum applications from foreign students were filed since the new raft of rules were introduced in September, as opposed to a staggering 940 applications filed within a few months last year.

The government has also drawn up a list of ‘safe countries’.

Asylum applications from these countries shall be considered manifestly unfounded and denied on a fast-track basis, unless the individual provides concrete proof he or she is truly at risk in their country of origin.

The initial list of 21 ‘safe’ countries, which may be revised from time to time, is as follows: Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Northern Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Georgia, Ghana, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Senegal, Gambia, Egypt and Nigeria.

The two main modes of entry of people who end up seeking asylum are: across the buffer zone, from the north of the island; and secondarily people coming here for studies.

Source: Cyprus Mail

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