Short overview of the asylum procedure

Cyprus

Country Report: Short overview of the asylum procedure Last updated: 08/04/22

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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” – or 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 of persons may enter at legal entry points and then apply for asylum. In recent years, around 30% of applicants are persons already in the country who have entered and remain under other statuses, such as domestic workers, or students etc and apply for asylum when their initial residence permit has expired.[1] In 2021 there was an increase in the percentage of new arrivals which reached 90% compared to applicants who were already in the country who represented 10% of asylum applicants.

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 (Under  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.[2] One such office exists in each of the five districts in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Ammochostos). With the establishment of Pournara, the First Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia, those persons who have recently arrived in the areas under the effective control of the RoC in an irregular manner are referred to the Centre for registration. Following this, asylum applications are to be lodged there and they are expected to stay fora period of 72 days. Initially, duration  reached 10 days to 2 weeks.[3] However, starting from 2020, as a result of the Action Plan to address flows of migrants in the country, and as part of the measure to address COVID-19, asylum seekers in the Centre were not allowed to leave. As asylum seekers remained at the Centre for periods reaching 5-6 months, the policy change resulted in severe overcrowding and substandard conditions. Throughout 2021, the average duration of stay fluctuated between  45 days and 60 days, with some cases reaching 3-4 months.

Other persons who access the country’s territory in a regular manner, – a very low percentage of the total of asylum applicants as well as persons already residing in the country on other statuses – must apply at the Immigration Unit and will not be referred to Pournara.

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 or detained in Police holding Cells, who have requested to lodge an asylum application, the Aliens and Immigration Unit will be notified and proceed to the prison or holding cell to  receive the asylum application.

Once an application is lodged by the Aliens and Immigration Unit, it is registered in the common data system, 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.

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. As a result of the amendments to the Refugee Law entered into force  in October 2020, the Asylum Service currently issues a single negative and returns decision.

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 and in late 2019 was piloted for the first time for persons of Georgian nationality with the intention of a wider adoption in 2020.[4] In May 2020, 21 countries were added to the ‘Safe Country’ list.[5] In May 2021, the list of safe countries of origin was once again modified, to include a total of 29.[6] Regardless of these changes,  there was no significant increase in the use of accelerated procedures in the last two years.[7]

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,[8] 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 from the stage it was paused. 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, this does not seem to be applied in practice.[9]

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, in recent years, modified the asylum procedure as follows: abolish the Refugee Reviewing Authority (RRA), a second level first-instance decision-making authority that examined recourses (appeals) on both facts and law, but was not a judicial body, and instead provide for a judicial review on both facts and law before the Administrative Court. As the Administrative Court has jurisdiction to review all administrative decisions, the inclusion of asylum decisions significantly contributed to increasing the Court’s caseload. Therefore in 2018, it was decided that a specialised court would be established to take on the cases related to international protection. The International Protection Administrative Court (IPAC) was then established,[10] and initiated its operations in June 2019. Furthermore, in July 2019 the RRA stopped receiving new applications, and ceased operations in December 2020.

Following a negative decision on the asylum application by the Asylum Service, an asylum seeker has the right to submit an appeal before the IPAC within 30 calendar days and 15 calendar days for accelerated procedures.[11] All decisions issued by the IPAC can be appealed before the Supreme Court within 14 days.[12]

Further to changes to the law in October 2020, the Asylum Service now issues a single negative and returns decision. For cases examined under the regular procedure, a returns decision is automatically suspended once an appeal is submitted. However, for appeals relating to cases examined in the accelerated procedure, subsequent applications, decisions that determine the asylum application unfounded or inadmissible, decisions related to explicit or implicit withdrawal the appeal does not have automatic suspensive effect and a separate application must be submitted to the IPAC requesting the right to remain pending the examination of the appeal.[13]

The IPAC examines both facts and points of law if the asylum application was made after 20 July 2015 (the transposition date of the recast APD). For asylum applications presented prior to that date, as well as cases relating to other areas of the Refugee Law, the IPAC examines only points of law.

If the IPAC accepts the appeal, the decision of the Asylum Service will be cancelled. The Court may return the decision to the Asylum service for review, or directly grant refugee status or subsidiary protection.[14]

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.[15] The onward appeal before the Supreme Court examines only points of law and does not have suspensive effect.

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. It is possible to appear without legal representation, but the chances of succeeding become extremely limited in such cases.

[1] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[2] Article 11, Refugee Law.

[3] Information provided by the Asylum Service.

[4] EASO Operating Plan 2020, accessible at: http://bit.ly/382C6eI.

[5]  Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[6] Ministerial Decision on Safe Countries, available in Greek at: http://www.cylaw.org/KDP/2021.html.

[7]  Based on cases reviewed by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[8] Article 9(1)(B) Refugee Law.

[9] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[10] Law N. 73(I)/2018 on the establishment of the Administrative Court for International Protection.

[11] Article 12A, Law N. 73(I)/2018 on the establishment of the Administrative Court for International Protection.

[12] 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.”

[13] Article 8 Refugee Law.

[14] Article 11 IPAC Law.

[15] Article 31Γ(5)Refugee Law.

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