The Aliens and Immigration Law refers to alternatives to detention and states that detention is used as a last resort, yet alternatives to detention are not listed and the relevant article is rarely implemented in practice.
The Refugee Law includes a non-exhaustive list of recommended alternatives to detention:
- Regular reporting to the authorities;
- Deposit of a financial guarantee;
- Obligation to stay at an assigned place, including a reception centre; and
However, these alternatives are not subject to a statutory time limit or a proportionality test and there are no implementing regulations or guidelines for their application. Due to this it is not clear how alternatives are implemented and, even though detention orders issued under the Refugee Law make reference to an individualised assessment and the CRMD states that such assessments are indeed carried out, no cases have been identified to confirm such practice. The decision to detain is not based on an assessment of the asylum seeker’s individual circumstances or the risk of absconding, and the CRMD issues and renews detention and deportation orders simultaneously, without considering less restrictive alternatives to immigration detention. This applies to all detainees, including asylum seekers, whose case is still pending. The lack of an individual assessment and consideration of less restrictive measures was raised in two recent decisions issued in 2019 by the IPAC. These decisions related to recourses challenging the detention based on article 9ΣΤ (2)(δ) of the Refugee Law. In both decisions, the Court mentioned the lack of assessment of any objective criteria that would justify the applicant’s detention. The Court also held that there needs to be an individualised assessment of the subjective criteria of each case, before issuing a detention order. In G.N. v. The Republic, the Court mentioned that the authorities “did not even bother” to examine any alternative measures to detention and held, therefore, that the principle of proportionality was not taken into consideration. It ordered the immediate release of the applicant with reporting conditions to the authorities three times per week. In T.E.V. v. the Republic, the Court stressed the need to provide a specific justification for each detention order issued and also made a reference to the need to take the proportionality and necessity principle into consideration for every detention order issued by the CRMD.
In early 2019, the Supreme Court delivered a positive decision on a Habeas Corpus application with reference to alternatives to detention, ordering the immediate release of an asylum seeker who was detained for nearly one year. Specifically, the Court clarified that the possibility to order less coercive alternatives exists not only upon the issuance of the detention order but during the entire period of detention, and should be examined when detention exceeds reasonable time limits.
In the latest report by the Committee Against Torture (CAT) on Cyprus it was mentioned that ‘the Committee remains concerned by the criminalization and routine detention of irregular migrants, the extended periods of detention of such migrants and the functioning of the migration detention facilities throughout the country’. Furthermore it is stated that ‘the Committee is concerned that no comprehensive identification procedures are in place to ensure the sufficient and timely identification of vulnerable persons prior to ordering detention’. Recommendations include for Cyprus to ‘Adopt regulations to fully and consistently implement the provisions of the Refugee Law providing for alternatives to detention, establish comprehensive procedures for the determination and application of alternatives to detention and ensure that these be considered prior to resorting to detention, as part of an overall assessment of the necessity, reasonableness and proportionality of detention in each individual case.’
The UN Human Rights Council in their Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in 2019 also recommended to the Cypriot State to ‘facilitate the integration of migrants and persons under international protection residing in Cyprus, put in place alternatives to long-term detention of asylum seekers, including those whose request for asylum has been rejected.’
In 2015-2016, a research project was implemented by FWC with funding from the European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM) with the aim of identifying and promoting alternatives to detention (ATD) that can be implemented in the Cypriot context. In 2017-2019, the Cyprus Refugee Council, building on the findings of the research project, implemented a pilot project under EPIM which was based on the CAP model developed by the International Detention Coalition (IDC) within the procedures followed in Cyprus, with the aim to promote alternatives to detention, as well as the overall resolution of cases. This was carried out by providing case management and conducting evidence-based advocacy following on from the findings of the cases.
Since July 2019, the Cyprus Refugee Council is implementing a third EPIM-funded project on ATD in Cyprus – “Safeguarding Alternatives to Detention: Implementing Case Management in Cyprus”, which builds on the progress and achievements established under the 2017-2019 Pilot, with the main objectives of reducing immigration detention, promoting engagement based ATD and contributing to the growing evidence and momentum on ATD at a national and regional level. In regard to activities, the project team provides individualised case management to persons that are in detention and / or at risk of detention including asylum seekers, rejected asylum seekers, irregular TCNs and non-removables.
The implementation of the project, and specifically case management, provides the Cyprus Refugee Council with further qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate to the relevant authorities that the proposed model can lead to higher engagement rates and case resolution. Through the implementation of the project, the Cyprus Refugee Council aims to pave the path towards generating ATD practices or policies for specific groups as well as to outline systemic gaps and the ineffectiveness of coercive-based approaches.
The Cyprus Refugee Council is also member of the European Alternatives to Detention Network which aims at reducing and ending immigration detention in Europe – for vulnerable groups – by building evidence and momentum on engagement-based alternatives. The network links NGOs running case management-based alternatives to detention pilot projects in Europe with regional / global advocacy organisations, and conducts and facilitates advocacy, learning and evidence generation among network members.
Article 18ΠΣΤ Aliens and Immigration Law.
 Article 9ΣΤ(3) Refugee Law.
Information based on monitoring visits to Menogia Detention Centre by the Cyprus Refugee Council and interventions carried out as part of the case management under the Pilot Project on the Implementation of alternatives to detention in Cyprus, available at: https://www.atdnetwork.org/.
See FWC, Promoting and Establishing Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Cyprus, November 2016, available in Greek at: http://bit.ly/2kAN5aG, 44-45 See also summary in English at: http://bit.ly/2jEHGLz.
G.N. v. The Republic, ΔΔΠ 155/2019 (5/11/2019); T.E.V. v the Republic, ΔΔΠ 270/2019 (8/11/2019)
Supreme Court, Application 1/2019, 24 January 2019, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2GgJeKM. See also Philenews, ‘Ανώτατο: Άμεση αποφυλάκιση αιτητή πολιτικού ασύλου’, 5 February 2019, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2RJefrX.
UNCAT, Concluding Observations on the Fifth Report of Cyprus, Committee against Torture, December 2019.
UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Cyprus, Twenty seventh session, April 2019.
Implemented by FWC from March 2017-December 2017.