Short overview of the asylum procedure

Cyprus

Country Report: Short overview of the asylum procedure Last updated: 16/04/21

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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. However, according to the Cyprus Refugee Council, 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. These individuals apply for asylum when their initial residence permit has expired.

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.[1] One such office exists in each of the five districts in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaca, Paphos, Ammochostos). With the establishment of the 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 for a period of 72 days. In practice the duration has usually reached 10 days to 2 weeks.[2] In 2020 and continuing in 2021, 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 have not been allowed to leave and remained in the Centre for periods reaching 5-6 months, resulting in severe overcrowding and substandard conditions.

Other persons who have arrived in a regular manner, which is 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 who have requested to lodge an asylum application, the Aliens and Immigration Unit will be notified before sending one of their police officers to receive the asylum application.

When persons present themselves to the Aliens and Immigration Units, stating their 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. At this point, persons have no proof that they intended to apply. However, there are rarely reports of this leading to the arrest of the persons concerned. During 2020, there were instances of persons who had recently arrived irregularly and, according to the new policy, should have been referred to Pournara, the First Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia. However, due to overcrowding they were not accommodated and were instead 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; in early 2021 there are still just over 200 outside the Centre.

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. 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.[3] In May 2020, a list of 21 countries were added to the ‘Safe Country’ list, however accelerated procedures were not utilised widely as expected.[4]

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,[5] 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.[6]

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 asylum decisions contributed sufficiently to a heavy caseload. Therefore in 2018, it was decided that a specialised court would be established to take on the cases related to international protection. A new court was established, named the International Protection Administrative Court (IPAC),[7] and in June 2019, IPAC initiated operations. Furthermore, in July 2019 the RRA stopped receiving new applications and in December 2020 ceased operations.

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.[8] All decisions issued by the IPAC can be appealed before the Supreme Court within 14 days.

The appeal before the IPAC examines both facts and points of law and has suspensive effect, for decisions issued under the regular procedure, whereas for decisions issued under the accelerated procedures a separate application must be submitted to the Court, requesting the right to remain.[9] 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.[10] 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. However, it is possible to appear without legal representation, however 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.

 

 

[1]  Article 11, Refugee Law.

[2]  Information provided by the Asylum Service.

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

[4] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

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

[6] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

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

[8] 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.”

[9]  Article 8 Refugee Law.

[10]  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