Short overview of the asylum procedure
The asylum procedure in Cyprus is a single procedure whereby both refugee status and subsidiary protection status is examined. In accordance with the Refugee Law, an asylum application is addressed to the Asylum Service (Department of the Ministry of Interior) and is made and lodged at the Aliens and Immigration Unit (Department of the Police) of the city in which the applicant is residing. One such office exists in each of the five districts in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Ammochostos). In 2020, it is expected that all applications of new arrivals will be lodged at the First Registration Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia. In cases where the applicant is in prison or detention, the application is made at the place of imprisonment or detention. For people in detention, asylum applications are received directly within the detention facilities, while for people 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.
A high percentage of asylum seekers enter Cyprus from the areas not controlled by the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), at the north of the island, and then cross the “green line” / no-man’s land 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 along it, these are not considered official entry points into the RoC. A certain number may enter at legal entry points and then apply for asylum, whereas about half of applicants are persons already in the country who have entered and stayed under other statuses such as domestic workers, students etc. and apply for asylum when their initial residence permit has expired.
When persons present themselves to the Aliens and Immigration Units, stating the intention to apply for asylum, they are often given appointments to return on another day to submit the application. The period before the appointment varies depending on the influx of refugees and the city. In some instances, it has been two weeks but at times has reached two months. During this time, persons have no proof that they intended to apply, however rarely are there reports of this leading to the arrest of the persons concerned. Towards the end of 2018 a new practice was implemented by which documents titled “Verification of intention to submit application for asylum” were issued to persons who expressed such intention but the Aliens and Immigration Unit did not have the time to proceed with the lodging of the application. However, the practice has not been applied holistically and only applies to persons residing temporarily at the First Registry Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia and some cases in Paphos.
The above practice has mostly ceased during 2019 with the exception of asylum seekers in Pafos. All new arrivals who have entered irregularly and present themselves to the Immigration in Nicosia are sent to the First Registry Reception Centre from where they will be taken to the Immigration in Nicosia to lodge applications. In 2020, and upon completion of the Centre, the aim is for all asylum seekers that have recently arrived in the country to be transferred to the Centre. However, in efforts to take protective measures against Covid-19 in early March 2020, and before completion of construction, all new arrivals in the country are being referred to the Centre and are not allowed to leave. This has 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 are being de facto detained. However, it seems that Syrian asylum seekers were 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 started allowing 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.
Once an application is lodged by the Aliens and Immigration Unit, it is registered in the common data system which is managed by the Asylum Service and fingerprints are taken. A person is considered an asylum seeker from the day the asylum application is lodged up to the issuance of the final decision and enjoys the rights associated with the asylum seeker status. Persons holding the “Verification of intention to submit application for asylum” are not considered to have lodged the application and do not have access to all rights attached to an asylum seeker status.
Specifically, the following procedures exist:
Regular and accelerated procedure: The Refugee Law provides for a regular procedure and an accelerated procedure. The decision issued by the Asylum Service can lead to refugee status, subsidiary protection status or a rejection. Until the April 2014 amendment to the Refugee Law, the Asylum Service could also grant humanitarian status, but the examination and granting of this status has been moved to the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD).
The Asylum Service is responsible for both the regular and accelerated procedures and asylum seekers are entitled to material reception conditions during both these procedures. The accelerated procedure has a specific time limit for the issuance of the decision and shorter time limits for the submission of an appeal. In practice, the accelerated procedure for many years had never been used. In 2018, in view of the significant rise in asylum applications, there were discussions on implementing the accelerated procedure and in 2019 steps were taken to set it up. From late 2019, the accelerated procedure is being piloted for specific nationalities and the wider adoption will most probably take place in mid-2020.
Asylum applications from countries considered safe or countries facing a humanitarian crisis are often prioritised through a fast-track procedure.
Dublin / admissibility procedure: According to the Refugee Law, during the procedure to identify the Member State responsible under the Dublin Regulation, a person has a right to remain on the territory and has access to reception conditions. Regarding asylum seekers returned to Cyprus under the Dublin Regulation, if the refugee status determination procedure was not concluded this will resume at the stage it was left off. The current practice following on from the end of 2014 indicates that Dublin returnees whose final decision is pending are not detained upon return. For Dublin returnees who have a final decision, there is a possibility that they could be detained upon return. However, there have been no such cases to indicate the practice.
Admissibility of a subsequent application / new elements: When a rejected asylum seeker submits a subsequent application or new elements to the initial claim, the Asylum Service examines the admissibility of such an application or elements. During the admissibility procedure the person is considered an asylum seeker and has access to reception conditions.
Appeals: In order to ensure that asylum seekers in Cyprus have a right to an effective remedy, the relevant authorities have taken steps to modify the asylum procedure as follows; abolish the RRA, which is a second level first-instance decision-making authority that examines recourses (appeals) on both facts and law, but is not a judicial body, and instead provide judicial review on both facts and law before the Administrative Court. In 2018, due to the heavy caseload before the Administrative Court it was decided that a specialised court will take on the cases related to international protection and a new court was established, named the International Protection Administrative Court (IPAC), In June 2019, IPAC initiated operations. Furthermore, in July 2019 the RRA ceased receiving new applications and will examine the backlog by the end of 2020 after which it will cease operations.
Following a negative decision on the asylum application by the Asylum Service, an asylum seeker has the right to submit a recourse before the IPAC within 75 calendar days. All decisions issued by the IPAC can be appealed before the Supreme Court within 42 days.
The appeal before the RRA and the IPAC has suspensive effect, and both examine facts and points of law. There is no specific time limit set for the issuance of a decision but the law provides that a decision must be issued as soon as possible. The onward appeal before the Supreme Court examines only points of law and does not have suspensive effect.
The procedure before the RRA is administrative, not judicial, and applicants have a right to submit an appeal without legal representation. The procedure before the IPAC is judicial and applicants are encouraged to enlist the services of a registered lawyer to represent them before the Court. However, it is possible to appear without legal representation. In both appeals, the chances of succeeding without legal representation are extremely limited. In view of the problematic access to legal aid, it is questionable how many applicants have access to this remedy.
Information provided by the Asylum Service.
 Article 9(1)(B) Refugee Law.
Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council, previously the Humanitarian Affairs Unit of Future Worlds Center, which carries monitoring visits to Kofinou reception centre and provides free legal support to asylum seekers since 2008 and assists an average of 400 cases per year.
[5Law N. 73(I)/2018 on the establishment of the Administrative Court for International Protection.
Administrative recourse under Article 146(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus. This provision provides as follows: “the Supreme Constitutional Court shall have exclusive jurisdiction to rule on any appeal against a decision by the Administrative Court which has exclusive jurisdiction to decide at first instance on any action condition being a decision, measure or any organ failure, authority or person exercising any executive or of the administration of on-the because this is contrary to the provisions of the Constitution or of any law or is made in excess or in abuse of powers vested in such organ or authority or person.”
Article 8 Refugee Law.
Article 31Γ(5)Refugee Law.