Duration of detention


Country Report: Duration of detention Last updated: 09/05/24


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The Refugee Law allows the detention of asylum seekers subject to no time limit. Therefore, in most cases persons will remain in detention until they are deported, they opt to leave voluntarily, or receive international protection. A limited number of cases will be released based on a Court Order.

In practice 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. As a result, their detention has no time limit.[1]

Once detained, an asylum seeker will in most cases remain detained for the duration of the asylum procedures. For asylum seekers detained in Menogia Detention Centre, the duration of the first instance examination of the asylum application is on average 2 months, whereas if detained in a holding cell it may take longer. Furthermore, if an appeal is submitted before the IPAC against a negative decision on the asylum application the duration of detention may reach or even go over 12 months. Duration of detention has remained an issue throughout 2023.

In early 2021, the Supreme Court decided on a Habeas Corpus application of a Syrian national detained for reasons of “national security”.[2] 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. He appealed the exclusion decision, appeal that was still pending, and thus was still considered to be an asylum seeker. The Court ordered his release as he could not be returned to Syria. The criminal investigation of his case had been concluded on 3 February 2020: no criminal proceedings had been ordered, and no other actions taken in relation to the terrorist charges, therefore his detention could no longer be justified.

In November 2022, the Supreme Court[3] ordered the release of a Syrian asylum seeker who was detained for reasons of ‘national security or public order’ when the police discovered photos he had posted on his Facebook account showing himself holding a gun and wearing the uniform of terrorist organisations. The Asylum Service found that he met the criteria to be recognised as a refugee since his return to Syria entailed risks of persecution; he was nevertheless deemed ineligible for an international protection status because of his involvement in extremist armed groups; his asylum application was rejected. The applicant appealed against the rejection and, through a separate application, challenged his detention through an application for habeas corpus. In the application, he requested disclosure of the documents and information which the authorities had in their possession, which according to the authorities, justified his continued detention. The trial court rejected his application for habeas corpus, stating that the applicant already knew the reasons for his detention, namely his social media posts implicating him with terrorist organisations. He appealed the first instance rejection of his habeas corpus application arguing that the failure of the authorities to disclose the information on the basis of which they detained him infringed the principle of equality of arms and his right to a fair trial, in violation of the EU Charter for Fundamental Rights and the ECHR. The Appeal Court set aside the trial court decisions that rejected the habeas corpus application and ordered the applicant’s release from detention, on the ground that the authorities failed to adequately and accurately justify why the applicant was seen as a risk to national security. As a result of the authorities’ failure to justify why the applicant’s detention for 14 months was necessary, his detention was rendered unlawful and the habeas corpus order was issued.

In 2023, the Supreme Court again ordered the release of a Syrian asylum seeker who was detained for 1 year for reasons of ‘national security or public order’ based on indications that he was a member of a terrorist organisation. The Court found that no actions had been taken by the authorities to investigate or support these claims and neither were any steps taken to examine his asylum application. The Court found the duration of his detention to have been unreasonably prolonged and therefore unlawful and ordered his immediate release.[4]

The above-mentioned court decisions have not had an impact on the policies or practices that are followed with regard to the length of detention, which continues to be indefinite. Furthermore in 2022 and continuing in 2023, there has been an increase in detainees being deported, as well as a significant increase in detainees opting for voluntary return[5] which has led to a decrease in the average duration of detention.




[1] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[2] Supreme Court Application 177/2020, 24 February 2021 available in Greek at: https://bit.ly/316sMoA.

[3] Supreme Court, Appeal, Application 15/22, 17 November 2022, available in Greek at https://bit.ly/3ln9FEH.

[4] Supreme Court, Application 101/2023, 15 September 2023, available in Greek at: https://tinyurl.com/5a73w5fz.

[5] Based on information obtained from the monitoring visits to the detention centre conducted by Cyprus Refugee Council.

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