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, reaching an average in 2018 of 70-75 asylum seekers at any time from an average of 45 asylum seekers. Moreover, an increase in the duration of detention was noted, reaching an average of five-six 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 are released on average following one and a half to two months of detention, with the exception of asylum seekers who are 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.
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://www.atdnetwork.org/.
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://www.atdnetwork.org/; For more information see: https://bit.ly/2w90nT3.