Access to the territory and push backs


Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 10/07/24


Cyprus Refugee Council Visit Website

A high percentage of asylum seekers enter Cyprus from the areas not controlled by the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), in the north of the island, and then cross the “green line”/no-man’s land, in an irregular manner to the areas under the control of the RoC. The “green line” is not considered a border and although there are authorised points of crossing, these are not considered official entry points into the RoC. Crossing of the “green line” is regulated under the “Green Line” Regulation,[1] and requires persons to have entered the RoC in a regular manner. In order to cross the “green line” through the points of crossing, a person needs a valid visa and will be checked by police acting in the north as well as by the RoC Police. As the vast majority of persons seeking asylum do not have such a visa, they cross the “green line” in an irregular manner, often with the help of smugglers. If a person is apprehended, having entered the areas in the north of Cyprus without permission from the authorities acting in the north, they will most probably be arrested and returned to Türkiye and, from Türkiye, possibly to their country of origin. As the acquis is suspended in the areas in the north, there is no asylum system in force.[2]

Besides arrivals from the north, a very small number of asylum seekers enter the RoC at official points of entry (ports and airports) and then apply for asylum. In previous years, approximately 30% of applicants were persons already in the country who had entered and stayed under other statuses, including domestic workers, work permits, and students, and applied for asylum when their initial residence permit has expired. In 2021, there was an increase in the percentage of new arrivals, compared to applicants who were already in the country. The trend continued in 2022 and 2023. In early 2024, for the first time the arrivals by sea were significantly higher than arrivals from the areas not controlled by the Republic of Cyprus.[3]

In 2021, in view of the increase in numbers of arrivals, Cypriot authorities requested that the European Commission activate Article 78(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) and propose provisional measures to allow Cyprus to deal with a sudden influx of third-country nationals, including the suspension of new asylum applications until the situation becomes manageable.[4] Concern was raised within the European Parliament about Cyprus’ expressed intention to suspend the processing of asylum applications and, in response to the European Parliament, the European Commission stated that derogations could be possible while respecting the right to seek asylum and the principle of non-refoulement.[5] There have been no developments on the ground concerning the suspension of new asylum applications and these are registered systematically.[6] However, in 2022 asylum applications submitted by Syrian and Afghani nationals were not examined, with extremely few exceptions,[7] although the Ministry of Interior acknowledges that Syria is not considered a safe country and that returns to Syria cannot be made.[8] Furthermore, the support provided by the European Commission, via EUAA, to improve asylum procedures including the registration and examination of asylum applications continued with no reference to a suspension of asylum applications.[9]

In mid-2023, the examination of Syrian and Afghani nationals resumed. However, in April 2024, due to the increase in arrivals of Syrian nationals the government announced that the examination of asylum applications of Syrian nationals is suspended.[10]

In March 2021, the Ministry of Interior installed razor wire along the “green line” under the justification of stemming migrant crossings from the areas in the north to the areas under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus. This measure led to criticism within Cyprus as it implies the delineation of borders and further legitimises the division of Cyprus, in addition to knowing that migration will not be solved by fences. Furthermore, the measures led to reactions from the European Commission as it had not been informed contrary to the Article 10 of the Green Line Regulation which provides that “any change in the policy of the government of the republic of Cyprus on crossings of persons or goods shall only become effective after the proposed changes have been notified to the Commission and the Commission has not objected to these changes within one month”.[11] Arrivals in 2021, were significantly higher than in 2020, and in 2022 the number of arrivals once again doubled than those in 2021, the majority of which arrived by irregularly crossing the ‘green line’, a testament to the fact that the installation of razor wire had little, if any, impact on arrivals.

In November 2021, Cyprus and Israel reached an agreement, under which the Israeli military would build a surveillance system to track activity along Cyprus’s Green Line. According to reports, the system will monitor attempts at smuggling and illegal migration, and Cypriot authorities will be provided assistance on military intelligence.[12]

Throughout 2022, other measures were announced to prevent migrants crossing the Green Line, including hiring 300 border guards who will monitor the Green Line,[13] continuing the installation of the surveillance system and extending the wire fence.[14] In early 2023, it was announced that only 221 border guards fulfilled the selection and are expected to take up operations in April 2023.[15] Furthermore, two cameras have been installed on the Green Line, with the intention to install in total 100 cameras, which will be monitored by members of the national army. According to the authorities when migrants are identified attempting to cross the Green Line, they attempt to stop these persons from crossing or, if this is not possible, they will be transferred to Pournara First Reception Center.

With the change of government in 2023 the decision was made to remove the razor wire as the measure was ineffective.[16] Furthermore, the border guards have mainly been used to guard Pournara and other locations rather than the ‘Green line as initially intended.[17]

People apprehended by the police within areas under the control of the RoC before applying for asylum may be arrested for irregular entry and/or stay, regardless of whether they were intending to apply for asylum, even if they were on their way to apply for asylum and have only been in the country for a few days. In recent years, the number of persons being arrested in such circumstances is low. Furthermore, Syrian nationals specifically will not be arrested unless there are indications of a criminal act such as smuggling.

Since 2016, there have also been boat arrivals reaching either the areas in the north – with persons then passing into the areas under the control of the RoC – or arriving directly in the areas under the control of the RoC. The boats initially came mainly from Türkiye, with an increasing number from Lebanon or Syria. A significant number of the persons arriving by boats are always relatives of persons already residing in Cyprus, often including spouses and underage children of persons with subsidiary protection. This is partly due to the fact that the vast majority of Syrians are granted subsidiary protection and this status, since 2014, does not give access to Family Reunification. Additionally, the route of arrival through the north has become harder and/or more expensive to access. Therefore, for many people, irregular boat arrivals are seen as the cheaper way or the only way to bring their immediate family.

In 2020, the Cypriot authorities, for the first time, carried out pushbacks of boats carrying mainly Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians who had departed from Türkiye or Lebanon.[18] In total, 9 push backs were carried out with one more attempt in December 2020, but due to damages the boat was eventually rescued.[19] The practice continued in 2021, with another 9 boats reported to be pushed back carrying mainly Syrian and Lebanese nationals as well as reports of 4 persons attempting to enter the areas under the effective control of the RoC and kept in the buffer zone.

In 2022, 40 boats arrived in the areas under the control of the Republic. Six boats were identified, all departing from Lebanon, that were intercepted by the Cypriot authorities, however there may be more cases of refoulement which were not identified or located. Four boats were reported to have been returned to Lebanon, carrying approximately 354 persons. It has also been reported that among them were three Syrians, who were eventually returned to Syria. The other two boats after being intercepted by the RoC continued the journey; one was reported to have reached Greece following the disembarkation of two people in Cyprus and the second was reported to have reached Türkiye.[20]

In 2023, there were two incidents of push backs in July and August, involving three boats and 109 nationals of Syria. UNHCR stated it was “extremely concerned”over the return of more than 100 Syrian nationals from Cyprus to Lebanon without a screening to determine whether they need legal protection and there is the possibility they may be deported back to their war-wracked homeland and that deportations and transfers between states“without legal and procedural safeguards for persons who may be in need of international protection”are against international and European law.[21]

Pushbacks at land and specifically at the Green Line continued throughout 2022 and 2023, as third country nationals are denied access to territories under the effective control of the Republic and to the asylum procedure when they try to cross from the official checkpoints. In December 2022, the Greek Cypriot police at the Ledra Palace checkpoint denied entry to two Turkish nationals of Kurdish origin seeking to apply for international protection. The two persons remained stranded in the buffer zone  without support from the authorities; tents were supplied by UNHCR and food was supplied initially by foreign embassies and UNHCR and subsequently by UNFICYP. One of the cases remained in the buffer zone until September 2023 and was eventually given access to asylum procedures. In November 2023, an asylum seeker from Iran presented herself to the police at the Ledra Palace checkpoint, declaring her need for international protection and was denied access to asylum procedures. She remained stranded in the buffer zone for three days and was allowed entry to the areas not controlled by the RoC and returned to Türkiye.[22]

In early 2021, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Interior of Cyprus, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović urged the Cypriot authorities to ensure that independent and effective investigations into allegations of pushbacks and of ill-treatment of arriving migrants, including persons who may be in need of international protection, be carried out by members of security forces.[23]

Overall, the number of arrivals declined significantly in 2023, by half in comparison to 2022, however the government emphasized the need to implement a European Union action plan for the Eastern Mediterranean in order to reduce the increased number of migrants detected on this route.[24] The government also called on the European Union to consider declaring parts of Syria to repatriate Syrians.[25] Furthermore, in April 2024, due to the increase in arrivals of Syrian nationals, the government announced that the examination of asylum applications of Syrian nationals is suspended.[26]

According to the Ministry of Interior in 2023, Cyprus ranked first among EU states for the highest percentage of returns of new asylum seeker applications and ranked 4th among the 27-member bloc in absolute numbers of returns and deportations of irregular migrants.[27] By the end of 2023, 9,193 people left.[28]

The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) published two reports on Frontex-supported return operation from Belgium and Cyprus to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Regarding Cyprus, the CPT highlighted the need for clear guidelines on the flight preparations and the boarding procedure, including on health-related issues. The Committee also became aware of allegations of ill-treatment after aborted removal attempts requiring the Cypriot authorities to take a proactive approach as regards the detection and prevention of ill-treatment. It also made recommendations aimed at improving safeguards in the context of the preparation for removal (e.g., access to a lawyer).[29]

Legal access to the territory

Cyprus does not provide the possibility for third country nationals to apply for a (humanitarian) visa, specifically with the intention to apply for international protection upon arrival. Only persons who are able to secure other types of visas (tourist, visitor) may have legal access to the territory (see also Family Reunification).

The voluntary relocation program was agreed in June 2022 with the aim to provide concrete support to frontline countries (MED5) to manage increased flows of asylum seekers. The program is supported by EU funding, at the request of the concerned Member States, with assistance from the EU Asylum Agency and IOM. More specifically, resettlement activities are 100% financed by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). The transfers are carried out with the cooperation of the Asylum Service of the Ministry of the Interior of Cyprus, the European Asylum Service (EUAA), the European Commission and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).[30] In December 2022, the first relocations of 48 Syrian and Afghan refugees took place.[31]

In 2023, 1773 persons have been relocated mainly to Germany and France, and lesser to Romania, Bulgaria, Belgium, Finland, Norway, Portugal.  Persons relocated are mainly nationals from Syria, Afghanistan and smaller numbers from Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Somalia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Palestine. The Program is expected to continue in 2024 with the existing Pledges from the supporting countries for 2023 still in place. In January 2024, 15 persons were transferred and there are more persons scheduled to be transferred in February and March 2024.[32]

In view of the rise of asylum seekers from Syria requesting relocation to other EU Member States, upon arrival, in mid 2023 the government decided to exclude new asylum seekers from the voluntary relocation Program to act as a deterrent to future arrivals. Persons arriving in Cyprus from January 2023 onwards are not eligible to the Program.[33] However, the majority of asylum seekers are not aware of this limitation and continue to request upon arrival when they will be relocated.[34]

Prior to the current relocation program there were limited such initiatives. In 2020, approximately 150 vulnerable asylum seekers, including unaccompanied children, were relocated to Finland as part of an initiative created by Finnish authorities to support Cyprus. In December 2021, following a visit by Pope Francis to Cyprus, 50 persons were relocated to Italy.[35] Since then, the Vatican continues to relocate small numbers of asylum seekers from Cyprus.[36]



[1] Council Regulation (EC) No 866/2004 on a regime under Article 2 of Protocol No 10 of the Act of Accession as last amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 587/2008.

[2] Act concerning the conditions of accession of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Cyprus, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Malta, the Republic of Poland, the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovak Republic and the adjustments to the Treaties on which the European Union is founded – Protocol No 10 on Cyprus, 16 April 2003, available at: The Protocol on Cyprus, attached to the Treaty of Accession signed on 16 April 2003 by the Republic of Cyprus, provides for the suspension of the application of the acquis in those areas of the Republic of Cyprus where the Government of the Republic does not exercise effective control.

[3] Philenews, Migrant traffickers have changed course. What is the invasion of 458 people due to?, 21 March 2024, available in Greek at

[5] EUAA Asylum Report 2022, p. 86, available at:; European Parliament, Parliamentary question – E-005330/2021, 30 November 2021, available at  

[6] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[7] Based on monthly statistics issued by the Cyprus Asylum Service.

[8] Ministry of Interior, Statements by the Minister of the Interior after the end of the Parliamentary Interior Committee on immigration, 31 March 2022, available in Greek at:

[9] ECRE, Cyprus: MoU Signed with European Commission While Government Casts Blame on Asylum Seekers, 25 February 2022, available at:

[10] Phileleftheros, President: The examination of asylum applications in all cases of persons of Syrian origin is suspended’, 13 April 2024, available in Greek at:

[11] Cyprus Mail, Barbed-wire controversy grows, 12 March 2021, available at:

[12] Times of Israel, Israel to build surveillance system to track activity along Cyprus’s Green Line, 5 November 2021, available at:; Cyprus Mail, Buffer zone surveillance deal signed with Israel (Updated), 5 November 2021, available at:

[13] Phileleftheros, Nouris is looking for 300 security guards, he found 187, 23 November 2022, available at:; Phileleftheros, 221 police guards on the Green Line, 21 Mars 2023, available at:

[14] Phileleftheros, They are putting up a fence for immigrants in Athienou as well, 20 January 2023, available at:

[15] Alphanews, They didn’t find the 300 for the Green Line, 8 February 2023, available at

[16] Phileleftheros, Ioannou will remove Nouri’s barbedwire, 1 August 2023 available at:

[17] Information by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[18] UN, Report of the United Nations Secretary-General on the UN operation in Cyprus, 8 January 2021, available at:

[19] Further details on pushbacks carried out in 2020 and 2021 are available in previous AIDA Country Reports on Cyprus, available at:

[20] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council. 

[21] Associated Press, Cyprus is sending Syrian migrants back to Lebanon. The UN is concerned but Cypriots say it’s lawful’, updated on 11 August 2023, available at:

[22] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[23] CoE Commissioner for Human Rights, Cypriot authorities should investigate allegations of pushbacks and ill-treatment of migrants, improve reception conditions, and ensure an enabling environment for NGOs’, 10 March 2021, available at:

[24] Schengen Visa News, 490% increased arrivals since 2016, 28 March 2023, available at; Reuters, Cyprus unveils campaign to counter spike in asylum seekers, 6 June 2023, available at

[25] Reuters, Cyprus calls for EU rethink on Syria migration as refugee numbers rise, 14 December 2023, available at

[26] Phileleftheros, President: The examination of asylum applications in all cases of persons of Syrian origin is suspended’, 13 April 2024, avaiilable in Greek at:

[27] Cyprus Times, Ministers: Cyprus ranks first in the EU in returning immigrants, 30 November 2023, available in Greek at:; Financial Mirror, Cyprus ranked first in EU on returns, 13 October 2023, available at:; ECRE, Weekly Bulletin of 20 October 2023, available at:; PhileNews, Cyprus returned more than 4,370 asylum seekers in 2023, says Interior Minister, 6 July 2023, available in Greek at:

[28] Information provided by Civil Registry and Migration Department.

[29] CoE CPT, Report to the Government of Belgium on the visit to Belgium carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) from 7 to 10 November 2022, 13 July 2023, available at: See also, ECRE, Weekly Legal Update (EWLU) of 8 September 2023, available at:  

[30] Asylum Service, Relocation, available at:

[31] Kathimerini, First group of asylum seekers relocated to Germany from Cyprus, 22 January 2023, available at:; Schengen Visa, First Group of Asylum Seekers Gets Relocated From Cyprus to Germany, 21 December 2022, available at:

[32] Information provided by the Asylum Service.

[33] InfoMigrants, Cyprus excludes new asylum seekers from resettlement scheme, 20 July 2023, available at:

[34] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[35] European Migration Network, Flash: 37th edition, May 2022, available at:, p. 6.

[36] Information provided by the Asylum Service.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation