Seventeen committees assigned with evaluating applications by third country nationals for political asylum, in the appeals phase, commenced their operation on Monday, in cooperation with the UN's High Commission for Refugees.

At present some 46,000 applications are pending.

Meanwhile, the citizens' protection ministry announced that foreign nationals illegally in the country who wish to return to their country of origin can employ a EU programme for the voluntary repatriation of third country citizens.

The programme includes a full briefing of interested parties; reimbursement for basic living costs until their departure and during the first period of their return to their home country.