Making and registering an application
According to the Refugee Law, an asylum application is addressed to the Asylum Service, a department of the Ministry of Interior, and made at the Aliens and Immigration Unit (Department of the Police) of the city in which the applicant is residing. The Unit then has no later than 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. The law also states that if the application is made to authorities who may receive such applications but are not competent to register such application, then 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 makes it very difficult in practice to meet the deadline for the registration of the application, as mentioned above, then these requests are registered no later than 10 working days after their submission.
The law does not specify the time limits within which asylum seekers should make their application for asylum; it only specifies a time limit between making and lodging an application. According to the Refugee 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 this is never 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.
All asylum applications are received by the Aliens and Immigration Unit, which is an office within the Police. One such office exists in each of the 5 districts in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Ammochostos). In 2019 onwards, asylum seekers who present themselves to the Nicosia Aliens and Immigration Unit, and who have recently arrived in the areas under the effective control of the RoC, are transferred to the First Registration Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia (see Types of Accommodation).
In exceptional cases, asylum seekers presenting themselves in other cities, usually where they are homeless, are transferred to the First Registration Reception Centre. In 2020, the aim is for all asylum seekers that have recently arrived in the country to be transferred to the Centre and lodge their application from there, provided the construction to upgrade the existing infrastructure has been completed. However, in efforts to take protective measures against the Covid-19 in early March 2020, and before completion of construction has taken place, all new arrivals in the country are being referred to the Centre and are not allowed to leave. This led to a rise in the number of persons in the Centre to approximately 700 without the infrastructure in place to host such a number, especially for a long duration and where such persons were de facto detained. However, it seemed that Syrian asylum seekers were being allowed to leave, the justification being that they have relatives or friends that can provide accommodation. After strong reactions from asylum seekers in the Centre, the Asylum Service allowed 10 persons per day to leave, giving priority to vulnerable persons and women but only if they could present a valid address. In view of the obstacles in accessing reception conditions, identifying accommodation is extremely difficult unless they are in contact with persons in the community.
However, given the announcement concerning the development of closed centres and measures due to Covid-19, it is unknown how long persons will remain in the Centre.
Services provided in the Centre will include identification, registration and lodging of asylum applications as well as medical screening and vulnerability assessment.
For persons in detention, their asylum applications are received directly within the detention facilities, whereas for persons in prison who have requested to lodge an asylum application, the Aliens and Immigration Unit will be notified and will send one of their police officers to receive the asylum application. This led to delays but in the past year there has been sufficient improvement.
There is no distinction between making and lodging an application in practice, with few exceptions. In most cases when persons present themselves to the Aliens and Immigration Unit, stating the intention to apply for asylum, they are either permitted to immediately lodge the application, or requested to return on another day, at times given an appointment. Persons requested to return on another day, to lodge the application, are not necessarily provided with evidence that they have stated an intention to apply for asylum nor are they registered by the Unit in any way. The waiting period for an appointment varies depending on the influx of asylum seekers and the city and can range from a few days to a few weeks. During this time asylum seekers do not have access to reception conditions or proof of their status in the country. However, rarely are there reports of this leading to arrest.
In 2018, a new practice was implemented whereby the registration and lodging of asylum applications are discrete procedural stages. Upon registration of the application by EASO or the Aliens and Immigration Unit, the asylum seeker receives an A4 paper form entitled “Verification of intention to apply for International Protection”, which indicates personal details such as name, date of birth and date of request. The asylum seeker is given an appointment date to reappear before the police in order to lodge their asylum claim and provide fingerprints. However, the practice was not uniform throughout the country, according to the monitoring carried out by the Cyprus Refugee Council. In 2019 and continuing on into 2020, this practice has been abandoned in most cities except for arrivals at the Pafos airport. Therefore, the practice of either lodging on the same day as the registration or being given an appointment later on continues. For persons arriving at the Pafos airport and stating their intention to apply for asylum, they are provided with the “Verification of intention to apply for International Protection”.
As of the summer 2018, EASO deploys registration assistants to support the Aliens and Immigration Units in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos. A total of five assistants have been made available throughout the year. In 2019, EASO supported registration in four district offices of the Aliens and Immigration Service of the police with six registration assistants. By the end of September, they had completed 6,443 registrations (68 % of the total number of registrations). According to the Support Plan in 2020, EASO will support registration in four district offices of the Aliens and Immigration Service of the police as well as registration in First Registration Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia (Pournara) with nine registration assistants and five interpreters (Pournara, Nicosia, Pafos).
With an average of around 1,000 new applications per month throughout 2019, the district offices of the Aliens and Immigration Unit in all locations have been under continuous pressure. However, most affected is the Nicosia district office, which registers applications from new arrivals who come through the First Registration Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia (Pournara). 
In early 2020 and following on from the global escalation of Covid-19, the Aliens and Immigration Unit stopped receiving asylum applications. No official decision or announcement has been made to date and there is a lack of clarity as to whether this is a measure in response to Covid-19 or the high numbers of applicants.
Information received from applicants who have been denied access to the asylum procedure notes that on 16 March 2020 partial access was allowed. The Aliens and Immigration Unit informed persons requesting to apply for international protection that they would not be allowed access without a national passport. A query was addressed to the authorities in an attempt to confirm or repudiate the information. It was neither confirmed nor denied by the public authority. As of 17 March 2020 the responsible authority has denied access to the asylum procedure altogether, regardless of whether the person of concern had any identification documents. A total of 23 people have contacted the Cyprus Refugee Council (CyRC) and/or the partner NGO to report that they were denied access to the procedure. Among them were four unaccompanied children.
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 period, then 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.
Fingerprints, according to the law, should be taken when an application is made. However, in practice fingerprints are usually taken by the Aliens and Immigration Unit when an application is lodged. Fingerprints are taken of the applicant 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 Aliens and Immigration Unit of the Police will also immediately register the application in the common asylum database which is managed by the Asylum Service.
At this stage the applicant is expected to proceed with medical examinations at a state hospital. Upon receiving results or at a given appointment they are expected to return to the Aliens and Immigration Unit and submit medical results. The Unit will register the applicant in the aliens’ register and upon submitting medical results they will receive an “Alien’s Registration Certificate” (ARC) in booklet form, which contains a registration number. This is also referred to as “Alien’s Book”. Full access to reception conditions are provided subject to the issuance of an ARC number.
The issuance of the ARC is often severely delayed reaching two-three months, especially in Nicosia. These delays prevent timely access to reception conditions, specifically an asylum seeker can only apply for welfare benefits with the “Confirmation of Submission of an Application for International Protection” and will receive an emergency benefit while the application for welfare benefits is being examined (see Criteria and Restrictions to Access Reception Conditions). Except in emergency cases and until they have an ARC number they do not have access to a medical card and they cannot register at the Labour Office as unemployed. Registration at the Labour Office was not an issue in the recent past as Access to the Labour Market was provided after six months, until which time asylum seekers would have their ARC. As of the end of 2018, access to the labour market is provided within one month, at which time an ARC has not yet been provided.
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 to the Cyprus Refugee Council on persons who applied for asylum while in prison.
Information provided by EASO, 13 February 2019.
Article 11(4)(a) Refugee Law.
Article 11(4)(c) Refugee Law.
Article 8(1)(b) Refugee Law.
Article11A Refugee Law.
Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.