In accordance with the law, the Asylum Service shall issue a leaflet (φυλλάδιο) in a language which the applicants can understand or are reasonably supposed to understand concerning: the benefits to which they have a right to in relation to reception conditions and the procedures required to access these benefits; the obligations with which they must comply in relation to the reception conditions; the organisations or groups of persons that provide specific legal assistance; and organisations that might be able to help or inform the applicant about existing reception conditions, including health care.
The Refugee Law also provides that the leaflet is given to applicants when they lodge their application by the responsible person at the authority responsible for receiving asylum applications, the AIU, as well any other necessary information regarding reception conditions, which may be provided orally or in writing in a language that they understand or are reasonably supposed to understand. The Asylum Service must ensure that the above information is provided within a reasonable time, not exceeding 15 days from lodging the application and for this purpose provides the necessary guidance.
In practice, the provision of information has always been one of the most important gaps in the system and remained so throughout 2022. Overall, there is extremely limited information available, written or otherwise and very few information providers, mainly NGOs with limited capacity.
The Asylum Service at times issued an information leaflet, which was not easily accessible and mostly providing outdated information. In 2019, efforts were made by the Asylum Service in collaboration with EUAA to produce more effective information materials, however due to the changes taking place in the asylum system, this was delayed and at time of publication it had not been updated.
Four EUAA Info Providers are currently stationed at Pournara providing group sessions in the presence of interpreters. The group sessions are provided to adults and include information on the registration process in the Reception Center, the asylum procedure and reception conditions. While at present the information is provided orally, the aim is to include in writing in the future. A leaflet published by UNHCR is also disseminated in Pournara Centre, providing basic info on asylum process and reception conditions,
According to the EUAA operating plan for 2022-2024, support will continue to be provided in Kofinou and Pournara for information provision activities by Asylum Information Provision Experts. The information sessions are a positive development however they are not sufficient to cover the overall lack of information in the asylum procedures, especially due to extremely limited sources of information and in view of the lengthy asylum procedures.
Regarding the provision of information to UASC it is considered to be the responsibility of the Social Welfare Officers who act as Guardians, however this is often insufficient due to the limited capacity of the guardians and their lacking of required knowledge to provide such information.
When lodging an application, applicants are given a leaflet on the Dublin procedure which includes general information on the Dublin procedure, and a separate information leaflet is available specifically for unaccompanied children. The leaflet also includes contact numbers of government and European agencies involved in the Dublin procedure as well as UNHCR.
Other information materials are produced by NGOs such as information leaflets, booklets, online platforms, and websites, regarding the asylum procedure, asylum seekers’ rights and obligations, and available support services. However, these are not always available nor are they updated consistently since they are often prepared within the framework of various European-funded projects. These leaflets/booklets may be available at various access points for asylum seekers only if the implementing agencies take the initiative to disseminate them or if the asylum seekers come into contact with the NGOs providing direct assistance.
The UNHCR Representation in Cyprus also has an online information platform for asylum seekers and refugees since 2017, covering asylum procedures; the rights and duties of asylum seekers and refugees; and information about government programmes and NGOs that offer various types of assistance and integration support. The platform is available in English, French and Arabic. The UNHCR online information platform includes specific information for unaccompanied children.
As regards decisions, according to the Law the Head of the Asylum Service must inform the applicant about the decision on their application and the timeframe to exercise their right to appeal in a language that they understand or may reasonably be considered to understand. In practice, the decision of the Asylum Service is provided in written form, the first page is provided in Greek or English and in a language understood by the asylum seeker, and includes whether a status has been granted or not, as well as the relevant legal provisions. Until late 2022 only a half-page summary of the reasoning of the decision was provided and this is only in Greek or rarely in English, whereas a detailed reasoning of the decision exists in the file at the Asylum Service, as well as the interview transcript. Both can be accessed by the asylum seeker (see Regular Procedure: Appeal) and reviewed in order to prepare an appeal, however these are also available only in Greek or English and there is no available free translation / interpretation. Furthermore, access to these documents consists of reviewing them without the possibility of taking a copy (see Regular Procedure: Personal Interview). From late 2022 onwards, a detailed reasoning of the decision is provided in cases of negative decisions, which is a positive development as it provides the applicant and legal advisors/lawyers with immediate access to the reasons the asylum application has been rejected. However, the reasoning is only provided in Greek or English.
UNHCR has provided information in English, Arabic and French regarding judicial appeal before the IPAC and how to apply for legal aid.
Currently, there is no information provided by the state on the subsequent applications procedure. Regarding information in detention, in the main detention centre and in prisons, there are leaflets available on the general rights and obligations of detainees, but no information available on the asylum procedure. This often leads to persons not understanding that they may have an asylum claim or the asylum procedures, right to apply for legal aid and/or access to remedies. According to the Refugee Law, each detained applicant should be informed immediately in writing, in a language which they either understands or reasonably are supposed to understand, the reasons for detention, judicial remedies, and the possibility of applying for free legal assistance and representation in such proceedings in accordance with the Legal Aid Law. In practice, detainees are provided with a detention order that includes the articles of the law based on which they are detained and, in brief, the remedies available (see Detention). There is no justification as to the individual reasons or facts or on procedures to access the available remedies.
In late 2019, the Cyprus Refugee Council published a leaflet made available in the main detention centre that included information on the basis of detention, available remedies, legal aid, and how these can be accessed. It was also disseminated in 2020 but has since has not been updated or disseminated due to unavailable resources to publish.
According to the Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained Law, every detainee has the right to have meetings with their lawyer. Lawyers appointed by detainees, legal representatives of NGOs working on asylum issues or UNHCR representatives, can visit asylum seekers in the detention centre and hold meetings with detainees confidentially. No major obstacle has been identified in visitation of lawyers, however representatives of NGOs or UNHCR are obliged to inform of their intention to visit the detention centre or a detainee, whereas lawyers are not. In 2020, due to COVID-19 measures, access to detention centres was at times not possible. In 2021 or 2022, no issues were registered.
Regarding access of asylum seekers to NGOs and UNHCR, for those residing in the community there are no issues regarding access other than the limited capacity of NGOs to address the needs and requests of asylum seekers in the country. Regarding access to Reception Centres, NGOs access to Kofinou Reception Centre upon request and such request are in most cases granted. Access to NGOs from asylum seekers in Pournara is limited mostly to NGOs providing services in the Centre, whereas there is no access to NGOs for asylum seekers in Limes.
 Article 9A Refugee Law.
 Article 9A(2) Refugee Law.
 Asylum Service, Information leaflet for applicants for international protection, available at: https://bit.ly/33M2ZTm
 EASO, Operating Plan, Cyprus 2022-2024, available at: https://bit.ly/37ezU8Z.
 Asylum Service, Information leaflets on the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations, available at: http://bit.ly/2GLI9GJ.
 Services on the Migrant Information Centre platform include the provision of information by topic, assistance to access the labour market, and assistance to cover accommodation, educational and health needs, available at: https://mihub.eu/en/.
 UNHCR, UNHCR Help – Cyprus, available at: https://bit.ly/3rSApKs.
 UNHCR, If you are under 18, available at: http://bit.ly/2rsW9lY.
 Article 18(7E) and (7B) Refugee Law.
 UNHCR, UNHCR Help – Cyprus, available at: https://bit.ly/3asLcTE.
 Article 9ΣΤ(8) Refugee Law.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Article 12 Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained Law.