Criteria and conditions

Cyprus

Country Report: Criteria and conditions Last updated: 28/04/21

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The Refugee Law provides the right to family reunification only to refugees.[1] As of 2014, the right to family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection was removed from the law and only in extremely rare and exceptional cases (approximately two to three cases) has such a request been granted on humanitarian grounds. In 2019 or 2020, no such cases were identified.[2] In April 2019, the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child issued a report regarding access to family reunification for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection, where the Commissioner concluded that the legislation in Cyprus which imposes a total ban on the right of family reunification to holders of subsidiary protection does not comply with the spirit of Directive 2003/86/EC on family reunification as interpreted by the Commission. Moreover, it is incompatible with the obligations under the ECHR, in particular Articles 8 and 14, as well as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Commissioner recommends an amendment to the Law, however, there have been no such developments.[3]

There is no waiting period for refugees to apply for family reunification and, according to the law, an application must be submitted to the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD), in a form and with a fee as decided by the Director of the CRMD.[4] If the request is submitted within three months from the grant of refugee status, there are no requirements besides proving the family relations. In 2019, a form has been introduced and although there were talks abouts introducing a fee, this has not been implemented. Prior to the introduction of the form, the CRMD requested that the refugee submit the request in a letter prepared by the refugee or representative.

The law provides that the request is accompanied by documentary evidence of the family relationship and accurate copies of the travel documents of the members of the family. If necessary, to prove the existence of the family relationship, the CRMD may conduct personal interviews with the refugee and/or family members and conduct any other investigation deemed necessary. Where a refugee cannot provide official documentary evidence of the family relationship, the CRMD examines other evidence of the existence of such relationship, which it assesses under Cypriot law. A decision refusing a request cannot be based solely on the absence of such documents.

According to the Law, the request for family reunification is submitted and examined only when the family members of a refugee are living outside the territory of the Republic. As soon as possible, and in any event no later than nine months from the date of the request, the Director of the CRMD shall decide on the request and notifies, in writing, the refugee who made the request as well as the Asylum Service. In exceptional circumstances linked to the complexity of the examination of the request, this period may be extended by written decision of the Director. The decision to reject the request must include the reasons for this. In the aforementioned procedure, the best interests of the child must be taken into consideration.[5]

Where family reunification is possible in a third country with which the refugee and family member(s) have a special connection or when the request for family reunification is submitted later than three months after the refugee was granted refugee status, the Director of the CRMD may also require the following evidence to be submitted:

  • accommodation that is regarded as normal for a comparable family in the same region and which meets the general health and safety standards in force in Cypriot law;
  • health insurance for the refugee and members of his family which covers all risks normally covered for nationals; and
  • stable and regular resources which are sufficient to maintain the refugee and family members without recourse to the social assistance system of the Republic. The Director evaluates the listed resources as to their nature and regularity, and may take into account the level of minimum wages and pensions in the Republic, as well as the number of family members.[6] The Director may reject a family reunification request concerning a member of a refugee’s family, for reasons of public policy, public security or public health.[7]

In practice, the procedure and requirements are constantly changing. Specifically, up to 2016, the evidence required to prove family relations was in fact the information provided during the examination of the asylum application (e.g., asylum application, interview, supporting documents) and it was sufficient to provide copies of documents of family/civil record, marriage certificates, birth certificates, and travel documents (where they exist) of the family members. In 2017, the CRMD started requesting original documents instead of copies and also requested that the submitted documents be officially translated in Greek or English by the Public Information Office of Cyprus, and duly certified (apostilled or verified by the relevant foreign authorities and the consular authorities of the Republic of Cyprus). This led to serious delays in the process and in some cases, it became an obstacle in the process, leading to many complaints. As a result, by mid-2018 the process was back on track with the previous obstacles resolved: the backlog was addressed and by the end of the year cases were being examined in a timely manner.[8]

In 2019, the procedure once again became extremely problematic with the CRMD requesting all applicants, including refugees who applied within three months of receiving refugee status, and refugees who had already received a positive decision on the family reunification request, to provide evidence that they have stable and regular resources which are sufficient to maintain the refugee and family members without recourse to the social assistance system of the Republic. This led to complaints being submitted by the Cyprus Refugee Council before the Commissioner of Administration and Human Rights, the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child and the EU Commission. Both the national Commissioners reacted immediately finding the CRMD to be in violation of the law. In 2020, the EU Commission requested information from the CRMD on the procedures and cases and at time of publication the inquiry had not been concluded. Throughout 2020, cases were not being decided on and the examination of cases has once again become slow with cases pending up to three years.

According to the Law, once the Director approves a family reunification request, he or she immediately authorises entry for members of the refugee family into the areas under the control of the Republic and notifies the relevant consular authorities of the Republic so they may facilitate any necessary visas.[9] However, there have been cases were a positive decision has been issued by the CRMD but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs via the consular authorities have refused to facilitate the issuance of visas. A relevant case is currently pending before the International Protection Administrative Court.

There is no official information on the number of family reunification requests submitted or approved but it is estimated that the number is substantially low due to the low numbers of persons granted refugee status, as the majority of refugees from Syria (96%) receive subsidiary protection and, therefore, do not have access to this right.

 

 

[1]           Article 25(5)-(19) Refugee Law.

[2]           IOM, ‘IOM Helps Syrian Girl Reunite with Family in Cyprus’, 23 February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lHbEQ8.

[3]           See: https://bit.ly/3apHev6.

[4]           Article 25(6) Refugee Law.

[5]           Article 25(7)-(11) Refugee Law.

[6]           Article 25(12) Refugee Law.

[7]           Article 25(13) Refugee Law.

[8]           Based on information from cases represented by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[9]           Article 25(14)(a) 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