The Refugee Law allows the detention of asylum seekers subject to no time limit.
Since 2017, a new practice has been implemented whereby once a person that is already detained applies for asylum, a new detention order is issued under the Refugee Law under the presumption that the person is submitting the application for international protection merely in order to delay or frustrate the enforcement of the return decision. This led to an increase in the number of asylum seekers in detention in 2018, from a previous average of 45 asylum seekers at any time to 70-75 asylum seekers at any time. Moreover, an increase in the duration of detention was noted, reaching an average of 5-6 months, with certain cases exceeding this. This included asylum seekers who had recently entered the country and had applied for asylum. There was no indication that the change in practice discouraged persons in detention from applying for asylum.
In January 2019, however, the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of an asylum seeker who was detained under the Refugee Law for nearly one year. The Court noted that, although asylum detention has no specified maximum time limit, Article 9ΣΤ(4)(a) of the Refugee Law provides that detention shall be imposed for the shortest period possible and shall be carried out without undue delay. Therefore, delays in processing the asylum application of a person in detention which cannot be imputed to the applicant does not justify the continuation of detention.
In 2019, the number of asylum seekers in detention at any time reduced and was approximately 45. The duration of detention also reduced, and asylum seekers were released on average following one and a half to two months of detention, with the exception of asylum seekers who were detained for “national security reasons” or “public safety”. Such cases include nine Syrian nationals, with some detained for periods longer than 12 months. In late 2019, the Syrian detainees as well as one Egyptian detainee, initiated hunger strikes in protest at the lengthy detention.
In 2020, there was a substantial deterioration in the duration of detention for asylum seekers, from around 1-2 months in 2019, to indefinite detention. Once detained, an asylum seeker will only be released if they are granted international protection. For asylum seekers detained in Menogia Detention Centre, the duration of examination of the asylum application is on average 2 months, whereas if detained in a holding cell it will take much longer, often reaching 6 months.
Moreover, in 2020 after a series of Habeas Corpus applications before the Supreme Court, 4 detainees who had been detained for reasons of “national security” were released due to their prolonged detention. In July, the Court ordered the release of a Syrian detainee after 16 months of detention for “national security reasons”. The Supreme Court decided that the applicant’s detention was in violation of the Refugee Law because the applicant was not held for the shortest period possible and because of the administrative delays as no steps had been taken for his removal although the application for asylum had been rejected. The Court also commented that the state, as well as European Union institutions, need to identify solutions with regards to detention of third-country nationals who are considered as a threat to national security. In September 2020, the Supreme Court ordered the release of an asylum seeker of Egyptian origin who was also detained for reasons of national security. The first time the detainee had applied for Habeas Corpus was five months after being detained and the application failed. The applicant was eventually detained for 19 months and was suspected of being a member of a terrorist organisation, without any evidence that he was active in any way. The Court found that the administration had made no attempt to assess the reason for detention and, therefore, the element of “necessity” for his detention was not satisfied.
In early 2021, another decision was issued by the Supreme Court on a Habeas Corpus application of a Syrian national who was detained for reasons of “national security”. The applicant had been detained for 21 months during which his asylum application had been examined and he had been excluded from Subsidiary Protection as he was considered to be a threat to national security due to his participation in a terrorist group. As he has appealed the exclusion decision, which is still pending, he is still considered to be an asylum seeker. The Court ordered his release stating that since he could not be returned to Syria. The criminal investigation of his case was concluded on 3 February 2020: no criminal proceedings were ordered, and no other actions have been taken in relation to the terrorist charges his detention can no longer be justified.
The above-mentioned court decisions have not had an impact on the policies or practices followed with regard to the length of detention which continues to be indefinite in 2021.
 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.
 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://bit.ly/3cJ2v6C.
 Article 9ΣΤ(2)(ε) 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://bit.ly/3cJ2v6C; For more information see: https://bit.ly/2w90nT3.
 Supreme Court, Application 4/2020, 24 February 2020, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3qO3o1h ; Supreme Court, Application 64/2020, 9 July 2020, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2OoatZv ; Supreme Court, Application 28/2020, 28 July 2020, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/2PVWJFw ; Supreme Court, Application 56/2020, 15 September 2020, available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/3eFI77O.
 Article 9ΣΤ(4)(α) and (β) Refugee Law.