Information for asylum seekers and access to NGOs and UNHCR

Cyprus

Country Report: Information for asylum seekers and access to NGOs and UNHCR Last updated: 30/11/20

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In accordance with the law,[1] the Asylum Service shall issue a leaflet (φυλλάδιο) in a language which the applicants 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, which is the Immigration Unit, 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.[2] The law also states that 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In practice, in recent years the information leaflet provided by the Asylum Service was outdated and rarely provided to asylum seekers. As of 2018, the information leaflet has been updated and issued, however it was not considered to be user-friendly.[3] In 2019, efforts were made by the Asylum Service in collaboration with EASO to produce more effective information materials, however due to the changes taking place in the asylum system this has been delayed and is expected to be available mid-2020.

Applicants are given a leaflet on the Dublin procedures which includes general information on the Dublin procedure, the individual’s rights along with a small paragraph on how it applies to unaccompanied minors and also to adults.[4] The leaflet also includes contact numbers.

 

From time to time there are other information materials produced by NGOs or private companies, such as information leaflets, booklets and websites,[5] 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.

 

Towards the end of 2017, the UNHCR Representation in Cyprus launched an online information platform for asylum seekers and refugees. Topics covered include information on the 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.[6] The platform is available in English, French and Arabic. The UNHCR online information platform includes specific information for unaccompanied children.[7]

 

Regarding decisions, in accordance with the law,[8] the Head of the Asylum Service must inform the applicant about the decision of the examination of the asylum application and the timeframe to exercise their right to lodge a recourse (judicial review) in a language that the asylum seeker understands 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. Attached to this first page is a half-page summary of the reasoning of the decision and this is provided only in Greek or rarely in English. 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).

 

Except for basic information and contact details included in the Asylum Service leaflet, there is no up-to-date information provided by the Refugee Reviewing Authority on their procedures. Regarding the   judicial appeal before the IPAC and the application for legal aid, UNHCR has provided information in English and information in Arabic and French are soon to be available in.[9]

 

Currently there is no information provided by the state on the procedure for the submission of a subsequent application or new elements, which includes an admissibility procedure. The lack of information for this procedure often acts as a deterrent for people who wish to submit a subsequent application or new element (see section on Subsequent Applications).[10]

 

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 not understanding 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 he or she either understands or reasonably is 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.[11] 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. There is no justification on the individual reasons or facts or on procedures to access the available remedies.

 

In late 2019, the Cyprus Refugee Council published a leaflet that was made available in the main detention centre that includes information on the basis of detention, available remedies, legal aid and how these can be accessed.[12]

 

According to the Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained Law,[13] every detainee has the right to have meetings with his or her 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 the process of visitation of lawyers, however representatives of NGOs or UNHCR are obliged to send prior notification of their intention to visit the detention centre or a detainee, whereas lawyers are not.

 


[1] Article 9A Refugee Law.

[2]Article 9A(2) Refugee Law.

[3]Asylum Service, Information leaflet for applicants for international protection, available at: https://bit.ly/33M2ZTm.

[4]Asylum Service, Information leaflets on the Dublin and Eurodac Regulations, available at: http://bit.ly/2GLI9GJ.

[5]Future Worlds Center, Information on Seeking Asylum in Cyprus, available at: https://bit.ly/2UJLa2V,  prepared in the framework of the ERF-funded “Info Bus” project.

[6]UNHCR, UNHCR Help – Cyprus, available at: http://help.unhcr.org/cyprus/.

[7]UNHCR, If you are under 18, available at: http://bit.ly/2rsW9lY.

[8]Article 18(7E) and (7B) Refugee Law.

[9]UNHCR, UNHCR Help – Cyprus, available at: https://bit.ly/3asLcTE.

[10]Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[11]Article 9ΣΤ(8) Refugee Law.

[12]Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[13]Article 12 Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained 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