Access to the territory and push backs


Country Report: Access to the territory and push backs Last updated: 11/04/23


Cyprus Refugee Council Visit Website

A high percentage of asylum seekers enter Cyprus from the areas not controlled by the 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 Turkey and, from Turkey, 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 apply 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.

In 2021 in view of the increase in numbers, 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.[3] 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. [4] There have been no developments on the ground with regards to the suspension of new asylum applications and these are registered systematically.[5] However, in 2022 asylum applications submitted by Syrian and Afghani nationals were not examined with extremely few exceptions, [6] although the Ministry of Interior acknowledges that Syria is not considered a safe country and that returns to Syria cannot be made.[7] Furthermore, the support provided by the European Commission, via EUAA to improve  asylum procedures including registration and examination of asylum applications continued with no reference to a suspension of asylum applications.[8]

According to EUAA, in 2020, the Agency supported 71% of all registrations for international protection in Cyprus, the majority of which (64%) concerned irregular entries crossing the “green line”.[9] In 2021, according to EUAA, the Agency registered 48% of all registrations in Cyprus in the first nine months of 2021 and approximately 66% of the irregular entry registration performed in Cyprus.[10] In 2021, EUAA carried out 7,880 registrations, of which 93% related to the top 10 citizenships of applicants, mainly from Syria (1,969), DRC (1,337) and Nigeria (1,211).[11]

In 2022, registrations carried out by the EUAA in Cyprus significantly increased, going from 7,880 in 2021 to 19,078 in 2022. 92% related to the top 10 citizenships of applicants, mainly from Syria (3,988), Nigeria (3,072), Democratic Republic of Congo (2,993) and Pakistan (1,965).[12] In the same year EUAA also carried out 3,431 registrations for temporary protection in Cyprus 4,197.[13]

In 2018, it was noted that the number of persons irregularly crossing the line increased,[14] and that the situation needed to be monitored carefully.[15] In 2019, with the numbers of applicants for international protection doubling once again compared to 2018, the government stated that changes would be made to the Green Line Regulation.[16] In addition, in March 2020 the Council of Ministers declared General Measures in the form of an Action Plan which specifically stated that a request for financial support to the European Commission would be sent to cover the required operating and administrative costs and equipment for surveillance of the coastline and the Green line. During 2020, the official crossing points were closed as a measure to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, however as the majority of asylum seekers cross at irregular points, this alone did not have an impact on arrivals.

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”.[17] 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.[18]

Throughout 2022 other measures were announced to prevent migrants crossing the Green Line, including hiring 300 border guards who will monitor the Green Line,[19] continuing the installation of the surveillance system and extending the wire fence.[20]  In early 2023, it was announced that only 221 border guards fulfilled the selection and are expected to take up operations in April 2023.[21] 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.

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 small boat arrivals of about 15-45 persons 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 majority of the boats come from Turkey, with a smaller number from Lebanon or Syria. In 2019, there were 11 boat arrivals, with a total of 427 persons. A significant number of the persons arriving by these boats are 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 push-backs of boats carrying mainly Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians who had departed from Turkey or Lebanon.[22] In total 9 push backs were carried out with one more attempt in December 2020, but due to damages the boat was eventually rescued.[23] 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 Turkey.[24]

Pushbacks at land and specifically at the Green Line continued throughout 2022, 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 seek asylum. The two persons remained stranded in the buffer zone since 15 December 2022 without support from the authorities; tents were supplied by UNHCR and food was supplied initially by foreign embassies and UNHCR and subsequently by UNFICYP.

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 were carried out into allegations of pushbacks and of ill-treatment of arriving migrants, including persons who may be in need of international protection, by members of security forces.

Legal access to the territory

There have been no relocation or resettlement programs implemented in Cyprus systematically. The only occurrence involved a small number of asylum seekers that were relocated to Cyprus under the 2015-2017 EU relocation scheme. Relocation programs from Cyprus toward other Member States have also had a limited scope; in particular, approximately 150 vulnerable asylum seekers, among which unaccompanied children, were relocated to Finland in mid-2020 as part of an initiative created by Finnish authorities to support Cyprus. In December 2021, following a visit by Pope Francis to Cyprus, it was announced that approximately 50 persons would be relocated to Italy;[25] since then, 50 additional asylum seekers were included in the program and are currently in the process of being transferred.[26] Overall, Cypriot authorities have often requested that programs to relocate asylum seekers from Cyprus to other EU member states are implemented, with limited response.

In 2022, relocation initiatives were announced by Germany and France by utilizing the new EU temporary solidarity mechanism. Germany has announced that 500 refugees will be relocated from Cyprus and in December 2022, the first relocations of 48 Syrian and Afghan refugees took place.[27]




[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] EU Accession Treaty – Protocols on Cyprus, 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.

[4] EUAA Asylum Report 2022, p86, available at:; Parliamentary question – E-005330/2021, available at

[5] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council

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

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

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

[9] EASO Operating Plan 2021, available at:

[10] EASO Operating Plan 2022-2024, available at:

[11] Information provided by EUAA, 28 February 2022.

[12] Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.

[13] Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.

[14] Associated Press, ‘Cyprus sees surge in migrants crossing from breakaway north’, 10 December 2018, available at:; The Guardian, ‘“Cyprus is saturated” – burgeoning migrant crisis grips island’, 11 December 2018, available at:

[15] European Commission, Fourteenth report on the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 866/2004and the situation resulting from its application covering the period 1 January until 31 December 2017, COM (2018) 488, 22 June 2018, available at:

[16] Philenews, “Μέτρα ΥΠΕΣ και ΥΠΕΞ για αυξημένους ελέγχους στα οδοφράγματα”, available in Greek at: Philenews, “Υπουργικό: Τα μέτρα για την παράνομη μετανάστευση“, available in Greek at:

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

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

[19] Phileleftheros, “Nouris is looking for 300 security guards, he found 187” available at; Phileleftheros, “221 police guards on the Green Line” available at

[20] Phileleftheros, “They are putting up a fence for immigrants in Athienou as well” available at

[21] Alphanews, “They didn’t find the 300 for the Green Line” available at

[22] Report of the United Nations Secretary General on the UN operation in Cyprus, available at:

[23] Further details on push backs carried out in 2020 and 2021, available in AIDA, Cyprus 2021 

[24] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council 

[25] European Migration Network, 37th edition, May 2022, available at:, p6.

[26] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[27] Kathimerini, “First group of asylum seekers relocated to Germany from Cyprus, available at; Schengen Visa First Group of Asylum Seekers Gets Relocated From Cyprus to Germany, available at

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