Beneficiaries of international protection are granted full access to the labour market under the same conditions that apply for nationals, immediately upon receiving international protection. Recognised refugees and subsidiary protection holders have access to the labour market under the same conditions.
Beneficiaries have the right to register at the Public Employment Service (PES) offices for purposes of seeking employment. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and up until September 2021, Public Employment Service was not requiring any job-seekers to attend in person, including beneficiaries of International Protection. New registrations of unemployed persons continued through email and registration of those who were already in the PES system prior to the pandemic measures was automatically renewed every month.
In September 2021, the PES initiated a different registration and job-seeking procedure for all service-users, including International Protection Holders. Under this new process, all job-seekers are required to register as unemployed, renew their registration and contact employers, through the Labour Department’s online platform. While online, the system is not automated. The registration process and use of the system require direct email exchange and communication with Labour Officers, whose capacity to attend and resolve issues is limited, resulting in poor employment-related guidance, as well as delays in processing registrations and requests. At the same time, this shift to online means has posed extensive challenges to users with limited or no digital skills.
From late 2019 and continuing in 2020 and 2021, the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD) continued to refuse to issue residence permits for family members including spouses and children who came of age as refugees in Cyprus regardless of the country of origin of the spouses, or the years they had already been in the country. This left them without status and full access to rights and has led to persons who have been living for many years in the country to lose their employment and other rights.
Beneficiaries of International Protection have the right to participate in vocational trainings offered by the competent state institutions. Access to such vocational training is very limited due to language barriers since courses are taught predominately in Greek, and a lack of information and guidance. During 2020 and due to the COVID-19 restrictions, a significant drop in the number of job-related trainings was observed. Some courses, mainly from EU-funded sources were available online, but overall participation was low, due to unfamiliarity of the population with online training instruments. In 2021, the situation improved, but the shift to online teaching methods still poses challenges in regards to participation of persons with low digital skills, low familiarization with online means and limited access to necessary equipment, stable internet connection and privacy.
No official data is available regarding the participation of beneficiaries in vocational training or the level of unemployment among international protection beneficiaries.
Employers are not adequately familiarized with beneficiaries’ rights of full access to the labour market, which places an additional obstacle for beneficiaries to find a job. In order to address this gap, the Cyprus Refugee Council in collaboration with the UNHCR Representation in Cyprus has launched a digital platform ‘HelpRefugeesWork’ that connects employers and training providers with beneficiaries and also acts as an advocacy tool to familiarize employers with beneficiaries’ rights of full access to the labour market. Between 2018 and 2021, more than 700 International Protection Holders registered in the platform applied for jobs and received employment-related guidance and support, whereas more than 200 well-known businesses covering a wide spectrum of employment sectors have posted their positions.
According to the Refugee Law, the state authorities should facilitate for beneficiaries of international protection, who cannot provide substantiated evidence of their qualifications, full access to appropriate programs for the evaluation, validation, and certification of their previous learning. In practice, accreditation of academic qualifications is possible through the same procedures available to nationals, with no special facilitation considering the circumstances for persons of international protection. Due to this, the following obstacles and/or limitations often prevent persons from accreditation:
- Unavailability of original academic titles/documentation needed to undergo accreditation procedures;
- The high cost of official translation of titles/documents before submitting them to the appointed authority (KYSATS);
- A lack of information regarding accreditation procedures;
- Long waiting times for the process to conclude, especially when KYSATS needs to consult with the corresponding authorities of other countries;
- Cost and difficulties for acquiring full correspondence of a title with the titles offered by the local public institutions.
The recast Qualification Directive provision foreseeing special measures concerning beneficiaries’ inability to meet the costs related to the recognition procedures has not been included in national legislation.
Access to professional experience certification and recognition procedures is also available for beneficiaries, however under the same conditions applying to nationals. Therefore, due to the lack of information and the fact that the vast majority of those procedures are held in Greek, participation of beneficiaries is extremely limited.
In September 2020, the Department of Transportation issued a Circular/Guidance Note concerning the criteria and the procedures for obtaining or renewing a driving license in Cyprus. The circular established additional requirements for non-Cypriot citizens including beneficiaries of International Protection, which prevents their access to issuing or renewing driving licenses and as a result accessing professions that require them. Also, the requirement of holding a valid residence permit excluded Beneficiaries of International Protection who had their residence permit under issuance or renewal, a process which typically requires many months of waiting.
In October 2020, the Department of Transportation issued an updated circular clarifying that, due to a temporary technical problem with the issuance of the residence permits at that time, they would accept a certificate issued by the CRMD instead of the residence permit. This did not solve the issue as access to the CRMD in late 2020 and continuing in 2021 was limited due to COVID-19 measures as well as the department moving location.
The requirements are considered to be in violation of the Driving License Law, which transposes the relevant article of the EU Directive on Driving Licences. Following interventions by NGOs, UNHCR, and employers, the issue was brought for discussion before the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament in February 2021, in view of the discriminatory policy and violation of the Law and EU Directive. During the discussion, the Department of Transportation agreed to review the criteria.
In May 2021, a new circular was issued, but it did not address the barriers for beneficiaries of protection. In regard to the requirement of holding a valid residence permit, the circular announces the termination of CRMD’s practice to issue a certificate for those not holding a residence permit, thus maintaining the barriers for those International Protection Holders affected by CRMD’s delays in issuing or renewing their residence permit.
 Article 21A Refugee Law.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Article 21(1A) Refugee Law.
 Article 21(1)(b)(iΓ) Refugee Law.
 Article 12. EU Directive 2006/126 on Driving Licenses (Recast), “For the purpose of this Directive, ‘normal residence’ means the place where a person usually lives, that is for at least 185 days in each calendar year, because of personal and occupational ties, or, in the case of a person with no occupational ties, because of personal ties which show close links between that person and the place where he is living”.