Making and registering an application
An asylum application can only be lodged on territory and specifically in the areas under the effective control of the RoC. There is no possibility to lodge an asylum application at embassies, consulates or other external representation of the country or in the areas in the north that are not under the effective control of the RoC.
According to the Refugee Law, an asylum application is addressed to the Asylum Service, a department of the Ministry of Interior. However, the Aliens and Immigration Unit (AIU), an office within the police, is primarily responsible for receiving and registering applications for international protection on behalf of the Asylum Service (including finger printing for EURODAC and Dublin purposes). AIU is also responsible for implementing detention and deportation orders issued by the Director of the CRMD. The Cypriot police is also responsible for facilitating and maintaining migration related IT-systems, such as the Eurodac and DubliNet NAP.
The Law states that the AIU then has three working days after the application is made to register it and must then refer it immediately to the Asylum Service for examination. In cases where the applicant is in prison or detention, the application is made at the place of imprisonment or detention. If the application is made to authorities who may receive such applications but are not competent to register such application, that authority shall ensure that the application is registered no later than six working days after the application is made. Furthermore, if a large number of simultaneous requests from third country nationals or stateless persons makes it very difficult in practice to meet the deadline for the registration of the application, these requests are registered no later than 10 working days after their submission.
The Refugee law does not specify the time limit within which asylum seekers should make their application for asylum; it only specifies a time limit between making and lodging an application. Furthermore, according to the Law, applicants who have entered irregularly are not subjected to punishment solely due to their illegal entry or stay, as long as they present themselves to the authorities without undue delay and provide the reasons of illegal entry or stay. In practice, the majority of persons entering or staying in the country irregularly will not be arrested when they present themselves to apply for asylum unless there is an outstanding arrest warrant or if they were in the country before and there is a re-entry ban. In limited cases, persons may be arrested when they present themselves to apply due to their irregular entry or stay even if there is no arrest warrant or re-entry ban (see Access to the Territory).
According to the Refugee Law, if an asylum seeker did not make an application for international protection as soon as possible, and without having a good reason for the delay, the Accelerated Procedure can be applied, yet in practice there is no evidence of this being implemented. The fact that an asylum application was not made at the soonest possible time by an asylum seeker who entered legally or irregularly will often be taken into consideration during the substantial examination of the asylum application and as an indication of the applicant’s lack of credibility and/or intention to delay removal.
In practice, since 2019 and the establishment of the Pournara, the First Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia (see Types of Accommodation), all persons who arrive in the areas under the effective control of the RoC in an irregular manner are referred to the Centre for registration. Persons who have arrived in a regular manner as well as persons already residing in the country on other statuses or undocumented, make and lodge asylum applications at the AIU, an office within the Police of the city they are residing in and will not be referred to Pournara. There are AIU offices in each of the 5 districts in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Ammochostos). Furthermore, in 2022, persons who were already residing in the country were often referred to Pournara to make and lodge an asylum application but were not obliged to remain there.
The services provided at the First Reception Centre in Pournara include identification, registration, and lodging of asylum applications, as well as medical screening and vulnerability assessments; when possible, the full assessment of the asylum application is directly carried out at the new Asylum Examination Centre adjacent to the ‘Pournara’ First Reception Centre. The duration of stay in the Centre is officially 72 hours, however this has never been the case and the duration has fluctuated over various periods from 2 weeks to several months. During 2022 the average duration of stay was 40-60 days however there are always cases that remain longer. Furthermore, the duration of stay for UASC is significantly longer and on average 3 months.
For persons held in the Menogia detention centre, asylum applications are received directly within the detention facilities. For persons detained in holding cells in police stations and prison, when they request to lodge an asylum application, the AIU is notified and sends a police officer of the AIU to receive the application. Access to asylum from prison has improved in 2022, whereas in cases of people detained in holding cells significant delays are still registered.
During 2020, persons who had recently arrived irregularly and should have been referred to Pournara were not sent there due to overcrowding and left homeless and unregistered. In an attempt to address this, the authorities set up tents outside the gates of Pournara, where approximately 200 asylum seekers were hosted with extremely limited hygiene facilities. The situation did not improve throughout 2021, where extremely long delays in accessing the Centre and registering asylum applications were reported, leading to hundreds of persons waiting outside in inhuman conditions. The delays were also caused by the AIU carrying out interviews regarding the routes followed and mode of entry into the country, as well as verification of identification and documents before allowing persons to enter the Centre. Persons with a passport or some form of identification document were given access faster than those who had no documents, and many had to wait for weeks to enter the Centre. In late 2021, based on recommendations from UNHCR, a pre-admission section was created to accommodate people awaiting registration, which led to a significant reduction in persons awaiting registration. However, in early 2022, it was reported that every day on average 40-50 persons were not admitted for registration, and were forced to keep returning every morning until given access. In late 2022, the situation remained the same and due to the high number of arrivals it was decided to admit a maximum of 60 persons per day to keep the numbers of persons in the Centre under control. As a result, approximately 40 persons were denied admission each day, leading to some persons entering the Centre irregularly in order to find shelter and others sleeping outdoors in front of the registration gate in the hopes of securing a position in the queue the following day. Several DIY tents and shelters appear at times around the center, mostly inhabited by persons awaiting registration. Persons with a passport or some form of identification document are systematically given access faster.
In 2020, EASO continued to provide support in registration in four district offices of the AIU (Nicosia, Paphos, Larnaca and Limassol) as well as in the Pournara centre. 10 registration assistants were deployed by EASO throughout the year, and 3 were still present as of 14 December 2020. Due to COVID-19 measures, the presence of EASO registration assistants was suspended at times throughout 2020. EASO carried out a total of 5,317 registrations in 2020, mainly concerning nationals from Syria, India and Cameroon. In 2021, EASO carried out a total of 7,880 registrations, mainly concerning nationals from Syria (1,969), DRC (1,337) and Nigeria (1,211). 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). In 2022, the EUAA carried out 3,431 registrations for temporary protection in Cyprus 4,197.
From March to May 2020 and following the global escalation of COVID-19, the AIU stopped receiving asylum applications. There was no official decision or announcement and thus it was unclear whether this was a COVID-19 response measure or due to the high numbers of applicants. Persons not given access to procedures were left stranded, without food and accommodation. Among those that approached NGOs for assistance on the issue were notably 4 unaccompanied children who were given access after interventions by NGOs. On some occasions, a national passport was requested and other times the reason for refusal was reported to be lack of capacity at Pournara Centre. Although lockdown measures were lifted in May 2020, and overall new arrivals of asylum seekers were at an all-time low, access to asylum did not resume normally until August 2020, and after repeated interventions by the Cyprus Refugee Council toward the authorities. In 2021 or 2022, no such incidents were reported.
Lodging an application
According to the law, the applicant must lodge the application within six working days from the date the application was “made” at the place that it was made, provided that it is possible to do so within that period. If an application is not lodged within this time, the applicant is considered to have implicitly withdrawn or abandoned his or her application. Finally, within three days from lodging the application, a confirmation that an application has been made must be provided. In practice an application is usually made and lodged at the same time and a confirmation that the applications has been made is issued, therefore there are rarely if any applications that will be considered to have been implicitly withdrawn or abandoned at this stage.
Fingerprints, according to the law, should be taken when an application is made. However, in practice fingerprints are usually taken by the AIU when an application is lodged. Fingerprints are taken for applicants and all dependants aged 14 and over.
When lodging the application, the applicant is provided with an A4 paper form entitled “Confirmation of Submission of an Application for International Protection”. This document includes a photograph in addition to personal details. The application is also registered in the common asylum database, managed by the Asylum Service.
For applicants registering at Pournara Centre, all procedures are concluded in the Centre, including identification, registration, and lodging of asylum applications as well as medical screenings, vulnerability assessments, and the issuance of the ARC number. The “Alien’s Registration Certificate” (ARC), is a 1-page document containing a registration number. This is also referred to as the “Alien’s Book”. Full access to reception conditions are subject to the issuance of an ARC number (see Criteria and Restrictions to Access Reception Conditions).
If the applicant applied at the AIU, they proceed with medical examinations at a state hospital. Upon receiving the results or at a given appointment, they are expected to return to the AIU and submit their medical results. The AIU will register the applicant in the aliens’ register and upon submitting their medical results they will receive an ARC. All results from the medical examinations are included in the applicants’ file maintained by the Asylum Service. The findings of the medical examinations may lead to referrals to state doctors, especially for urgent or transmittable conditions, however it hardly ever leads to alternative accommodation.
Towards the end of 2020, and in early 2021, there were delays in the issuance of the ARC number due to COVID-19 cases in Pournara which led to the responsible officers not being present in the Centre. For the rest of 2021 and 2022, there were no reports of delays.
 Article 11(1) Refugee Law.
 Article 11(2)(a) Refugee Law.
 Article 11(2)(b) Refugee Law.
 Article 11(2)(c) Refugee Law.
 Article 11(4)(a) Refugee Law.
 Article 7 Refugee Law.
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council based on monitoring visits to the detention centre.
 Article 12Δ(4)(i) Refugee Law.
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council
 Information provided to the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Information provided by EASO, 26 February 2021.
 Information provided by EUAA, 28 February 2022.
 Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.
 Information provided by the EUAA, 28 February 2023.
 Information provided by Caritas Cyprus and Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Based on interventions carried out by the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Article 11(4)(a) Refugee Law.
 Article 11(4)(c) Refugee Law.
 Article 8(1)(b) Refugee Law.
 Article 11A Refugee Law.