The European Commission has awarded €171 million to Cyprus, Spain, Greece, Italy and Poland to help manage asylum reception and returns. The funds are aimed at easing the burden of migrant arrivals in the border Member States.
Cyprus, which has repeatedly called on the EU and other member states to help it to deal with asylum seekers, is to receive funds to build an accommodation and pre-departure center in the Menoyia area in Larnaka. The republic has a huge backlog of pending asylum applications (16,994 cases at the end of 2021) and long processing periods.
Reception standards in Cyprus have been strongly criticized by migrants and NGOs. Earlier this year, Cyprus children's rights commissioner Despo Michaelidou said young migrants and refugees at the Pournara facility near Nicosia had to endure miserable and unhygienic conditions and were not getting enough to eat and drink. Many asylum seekers hosted in the community also live in extremely poor conditions, according to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles.
Read more: Cyprus reports a rise in migrant arrivals
In Spain the funds from the EU Commission's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), which has a total budget of €9.9 billion, will go to boosting the capacity of the reception systems in Ceuta and the Canary Islands.
The number of asylum seekers arriving in the Spanish territories, especially the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, continues to rise. As of July 31, the arrivals in the Canaries were up nearly 30% compared with last year, at 9,670.
More applications, higher recognition rates
The announcement of the EU funds comes as asylum applications have risen to a near record high monthly level, according to the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA). The agency says that there were around 70,200 applications in May, the second-highest number in a single month since 2016.
Afghans and Syrians lodged the most claims in May, while applications from Pakistanis increased by nearly a half. Turkish nationals lodged the most applications on record.
The recognition rate rose to 45%, the highest in years. But while the rate for Syrians rose to 96% (around the same as for Ukrainians), for Afghans it fell steeply to 53%.
10.3 million have fled Ukraine
The rise in the number of applications is not a result of people fleeing the war in Ukraine – the number of Ukrainians applying for asylum is relatively low (1,600 in May), as the vast majority are eligible for temporary protection – meaning they do not have to undergo an asylum procedure. The scheme, devised for those fleeing the Ukraine conflict, has ensured that asylum authorities are not overwhelmed with tens of thousands of new cases.
Read more: EU: Ukrainians allowed to leave and re-enter bloc under their protection status
About 10.3 million people – roughly the population of Sweden – have fled Ukraine for EU countries, Norway or Switzerland since the Russian invasion, the EUAA said this week. Four EU member states bordering Ukraine – Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania – have taken in 7.8 million.