The Refugee Law provides the right to family reunification only to refugees. According to the Law only the following family members have the right to family reunification and only where the family relationship arose before the refugee’s entry,
- Spouses, provided that both have reached the age of twenty-one. In cases of polygamous marriage, the spouse of a refugee is excluded from the right to family reunification, when another spouse is already cohabiting with the refugee in the Republic;
- minor and unmarried children of the refugee and their spouse, including a child adopted in accordance with either a decision taken by a competent authority in the Republic or a foreign decision which is automatically enforceable by virtue of the international obligations of the Republic or compulsorily recognized in accordance with the international obligations of the Republic. In cases of polygamous marriage, the child of the refugee and a spouse, besides the spouse already living with the refugee in the Republic, is excluded from the right to family reunification.
- minor and unmarried child of the refugee, including a child adopted where the refugee has sole custody and responsibility for maintenance. In cases of polygamous marriage, the child of the refugee and a spouse, besides the spouse already living with the refugee in the Republic, is excluded from the right to family reunification.
- a minor and unmarried child of the refugee’s spouse, including a child adopted in case the spouse has sole custody and responsibility for maintenance. In cases of polygamous marriage, the child of a spouse other than the one already cohabiting with the refugee in the Republic is excluded from the right to family reunification.
- by blood and first-degree relatives, in case the refugee is an unaccompanied minor.
The right to family reunification was removed for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection in 2014 only in extremely rare and exceptional cases (approximately two to three cases) has such a request been granted on humanitarian grounds. Since 2019, no such cases have been identified. In April 2019, the Commissioner for the Rights of the Child 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 and 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. They recommended an amendment to the Law, however, there have been no such developments.
There is no waiting period for refugees to apply for family reunification and, according to the law, an application must be submitted to the CRMD, in a form and with a fee as decided by the Director of the CRMD. If the request is submitted within three months from the granting of refugee status, there are no requirements besides proving the family relations. To date a fee has not been required.
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, assessed under Cypriot law. A decision refusing a request cannot be based solely on the absence of such documents. In practice the examination is based on documents submitted combined with the information provided by the refugee during the refugee status determination procedure. as well as any other information the CRMD may request. There have been no cases identified where an interview has taken place with the family members.
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. In the aforementioned procedure, the best interests of the child must be taken into consideration.
Furthermore, in accordance to the Law, 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. 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.
In practice, the procedure and requirements have often changed. Up to 2016, the evidence required to prove family relations was the information provided during the examination of the asylum application and it was sufficient to provide copies of documents (certificates, travel documents). In 2017, the CRMD started requesting original documents instead of copies and that the submitted documents be officially translated in Greek or English by the Public Information Office of Cyprus, and duly certified. This led to serious delays in the process and became an obstacle in the process, leading to many complaints. 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.
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. However, throughout 2020, cases were not being decided on and the examination of cases has once again became very slow with cases pending up to three years.
In 2021 and although the EU Commission’s inquiry was still ongoing limited progress was noted. Only 2 family reunification applications received decisions, although both were positive. Furthermore, procedures remained lengthy, with cases taking on average 2 or more years before receiving a decision. In 2022 attempts were made by the CRMD to clear the backlog of pending requests for family reunification as well as speed up the examination of new applications. However, at the end of 2022 and continuing in 2023 the procedure remained slow exceeding 9 months and no other decisions had been issued.
According to the Law, once the Director approves a family reunification request, they immediately authorise entry for members of the refugee’s family into the areas under the control of the Republic and notify the relevant consular authorities of the Republic so they may facilitate any necessary visas. 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 Administrative Court, since 2019. In 2022 another case was identified where the CRMD approved the request for family reunification, but the consular authority did not facilitate the necessary visas for two young children citing issues with the authenticity of the birth certificates, although the family relation with the mother was not disputed.
In 2022 the IPAC issued a positive decision with regards to family reunification in a case of a recognised refugee who had applied for family reunification with their spouse and 4 underage children. As the applicant had applied 3 months after status was granted their application was subject to material conditions. The application was rejected on the basis of financial criteria, although the applicant was employed it was deemed that the income was insufficient to support the family. The IPAC annulled the decision on the basis of a non-sufficient research of the material facts by the CRMD and provided clear guidance on the examination of family reunification applications of refugees, emphasising the need for the CRMD to take into consideration the special circumstances of refugees and the best interest of the child principle. The case has been returned to the CRMD for examination, but a new decision has yet to be issued.
In 2022, approximately 20 applications for family reunification were submitted, of which 2 were approved and the rest remain pending. The number of family reunification requests submitted or approved 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 as mentioned above do not have access to this right regardless of the number of years they are in Cyprus.
 Article 25(5)-(19) Refugee Law.
 IOM, ‘IOM Helps Syrian Girl Reunite with Family in Cyprus’, 23 February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2lHbEQ8.
 See: https://bit.ly/3apHev6.
 Article 25(6) Refugee Law.
 Article 25(7)-(11) Refugee Law.
 Article 25(12) Refugee Law.
 Article 25(13) Refugee Law.
 Based on information from cases represented by the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Article 25(14)(a) Refugee Law.
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.
 YT v. RoC via CRMD, ΔΔΠ 500/2019, decision date 10/11/2022.
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.