International protection beneficiaries, both recognised refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries have access to the national social welfare system Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) at the same level and under the same conditions that apply to nationals. The only exception is the requirement of having five years of legal and continued residence in Cyprus, which international protection beneficiaries are exempted from. All applicants of GMI are required to reside in the government-controlled areas of RoC in order to be eligible for GMI. Other than that there are no requirements to reside in a specific place or region.
The Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance and specifically the Welfare Benefit Management Service is the authority responsible for the administration of the GMI. In practice applicants for GMI, both nationals and beneficiaries of international protection, face long delays in the examination of their application with most cases reaching up to six months. For beneficiaries of international protection this period is extremely difficult as any benefits received as an asylum seeker are ceased upon issuance of a decision on the asylum application and there is no transitional assistance provided.
During this period and after the submission of the GMI application, an applicant of GMI has the right to apply for an emergency benefit at the District Welfare Office to cover basic needs. However, the amount provided under the emergency benefit is extremely low at about €100-150 for one person per month and approximately €150-280 for a family per month. The amount cannot be determined in advance and depends on the amount that is provided to the Welfare Office every month by the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. Furthermore, the examination of the emergency application takes approximately one-two weeks and is subject to the approval of the supervisor of the welfare office. The application is valid only for one month and must be submitted every month, until the decision for the GMI is issued.
In 2018 and 2019, in view of improvements in the financial situation in Cyprus, which have led to an increase in employment opportunities, the GMI took a stricter stance toward all beneficiaries including refugees. Due to this, many refugees reported receiving notifications that the GMI is terminated with the justification that certain requirements have not been met, such as one of the spouses failure to register at the Labour Office as unemployed or not submitting required documentation.