Adequate support during the interview
The Refugee Law lays down procedural guarantees and provides that if the Asylum Service finds that an applicant is in need of special procedural guarantees, they are provided with adequate support, including sufficient time, so that the applicant can benefit from their rights and comply with the obligations provided for in the Refugee Law throughout the asylum procedures and to make it possible to highlight the elements needed to substantiate the asylum application. The exact level, type, or kind of support is not specified in the law. No other procedural guarantees are provided in the law or administrative guidelines, or in practice, to accommodate the specific needs of such asylum seekers.
In practice, cases of persons identified as vulnerable will be allocated to an examiner trained to deal with vulnerable cases and, in most cases, the applicant will receive an appropriate interview. However, even in such cases there is not a set procedure or guidance wherein the examiner can request that the applicant receives support, such as medical or psychological support, in order to facilitate the interview and ensure the applicant is in a position to provide the elements needed to substantiate their claim. Furthermore, issues arise when cases are not identified as vulnerable and consequently examined by caseworkers that do not have the necessary training or in the context of complicated cases for which they do not have the required expertise. As there is there is no complaints mechanism in the Asylum Service, applicants have no recourse to address issues such as caseworkers failing to take into consideration the vulnerabilities or sensitivities of the applicant; not being impartial; carrying out the interview in an interrogatory manner or having a problematic attitude.
In recent years, improvements have been noted in personal interviews, in addition to training of officers/caseworkers carrying out interviews and examining asylum claims. There are no specialised units within the Asylum Service, but there are five specialised case officers dealing with claims from vulnerable persons, including three officers for unaccompanied children and two for vulnerable groups such as victims of trafficking and gender-based violence. EUAA examiners also assess the needs of vulnerable persons, but it is unclear how many experts work in this capacity.
However, specific interview techniques are not systematically used, and practice still depends on individual officers/caseworkers conducting interviews. Due to the lack of a quality control mechanism similar cases are often examined in a different manner resulting in different outcomes, such as LGBTIQ cases. In addition, if a case is not identified as vulnerable or the vulnerability occurs after registration where the vulnerability assessment takes place an interview will most probably be carried out by an officer/caseworker who lacks the necessary training. As there is no internal procedure to refer cases, they will often continue with the interview and examination of the application.
If requested, usually in writing, a social advisor or psychologist can escort a vulnerable person to the interview. However, due to the low capacity of available services this is not utilised very often. Based on cases represented by CyRC, such a request was made and permission was granted for two cases in 2019, two cases in 2020 and three cases in 2021. The role of the social advisor or psychologist during the interview is as support for the applicant. They do not intervene in the interview.
Exemption from special procedures
The law also provides that where such adequate support cannot be provided within the framework of the Accelerated Procedure, in particular where it is considered that the applicant is in need of special procedural guarantees as a result of torture, rape, or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, the Head of the Asylum Service shall not apply, or shall cease to apply, the accelerated procedure.
Asylum applications submitted by vulnerable groups of asylum seekers such as victims of torture, severe forms of violence and unaccompanied children follow the regular examination procedure.
In practice the use of the accelerated was only initiated toward the end of 2019 with limited use until late 2022. Cases have been identified that were initially being examined under the accelerated procedures and were transferred to the regular procedure due to the applicant raising arguments that are complex and cannot be examined within the 30-day timeframe as stipulated by the Law (usually either due to submitting a lot of evidence or there being a need for multiple interviews). However as the procedures have been implemented recently further monitoring is required.
 Article 10A Refugee Law.
 Information based on cases represented by the Cyprus Refugee Council
 Information provided by the Asylum Service, January 2018.
 Article 10Α(3)(a).
 Based on cases reviewed by the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.