Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 11/04/23
The report was previously updated in April 2022.
- Pushbacks: In 2022, six boats were identified, all departing from Lebanon, that were intercepted by the Cypriot authorities, however there may be more cases of refoulement which were not identified or located. Furthermore, pushbacks at land and specifically at the Green Line continued throughout 2022, as third country nationals are denied access to territories under the effective control of the Republic and to the asylum procedure when they try to cross from the official checkpoints.
- Arrivals and asylum applications: The number of submitted asylum applications continued to increase, rendering Cyprus the EU Member State with most applicants per capita. The majority arrived by irregularly crossing the ‘green line’. Throughout 2022 measures were taken to prevent migrants crossing the Green Line, including hiring 300 border guards who will monitor the Green Line, continuing the installation of the surveillance system and extending the wire fence. According to the authorities when migrants are identified attempting to cross the Green Line, attempts will be made to stop these persons from crossing or, if this is not possible, they will be transferred to Pournara First Reception Center. Regardless of the measures taken arrivals continued to be high.
- Key asylum statistics: The backlog of pending asylum applications remains extremely high, with long processing periods, a trend which is expected to continue throughout 2023. In 2022, 20,593 new asylum applications were submitted and 15,193 decisions were issued (202 refugee status, 177 subsidiary protection and 8,178 rejections); 29,715 asylum seekers were pending examination at year end at first instance before the Asylum Service and 6,609 at 2nd instance, before the IPAC. In comparison, in 2020, 6,651 new asylum applications were submitted, 7,389 decisions were issued (90 refugee status, 1,020 subsidiary protection and 4,355 negative) and 18,995 cases were pending end of year. Whereas in 2021, 12,544 new asylum applications were submitted and 14,868 decisions were issued (189 refugee status, 1,472 subsidiary protection and 9,555 rejections); 16,994 cases were pending end of year.
- Safe Countries of origin: A new list of safe countries of origin was published in May 2020, increasing the number of countries regarded as safe from 1 to 21. In 2021, 8 additional countries were included in the list, resulting to a total of 29 countries. In 2022, the list was amended to 27 countries as Ukraine and Kosovo were remove. The aim is to examine all applications from safe countries under the accelerated procedures the use of which increased slightly in late 2022.
- Reception standards: Reception standards remain below adequate levels, exposing asylum seekers to risks of homelessness and destitution. The majority of asylum seekers are hosted in the community instead than in reception centres, and often live in extremely poor conditions. Reception centres are overcrowded and in need of infrastructural renovation; sanitation and hygiene are below standard, and no sufficient safeguards against sexual and gender-based violence for children and single women are in place. The timely identification and response to the needs of vulnerable individuals, including children, both within reception facilities and in the community, requires improvement.
- Access to the labour market: Improvements made in terms of procedures required to hire asylum seekers as well as the opening of the labour market post, facilitated access to employment and increased the numbers of asylum seekers accessing the labour market. However, low working conditions and respect of labour rights remain a concern.
- Children: The number of refugee children arriving in Cyprus, either accompanied by family members or unaccompanied/separated, is on the rise. Gaps remain in the protection of minors, particularly in the First Reception Centre of Pournara. Children remain without adequate guardianship, and are as such exposed to various risks, such as trafficking, sexual or labour exploitation. Procedures regulating the assessment of the child’s best interest are also lacking.
Detention of asylum seekers
- Statistics on detention: The number of detained asylum seekers remains low, however alternatives to detention are still not systematically applied even in cases of vulnerable persons.
- Detention conditions: Asylum seekers continue to be detained in holding cells in police stations across the country in sub-standard conditions. Furthermore, they face obstacles in accessing asylum procedures and legal remedies to challenge detention and/or rejected asylum applications.
Content of international protection
- Integration opportunities: The lack of integration opportunities remains one of the weakest elements of the national asylum system. A new integration plan, which was developed under EU funding with the aim of adopting a multi-year integration strategy, was finalised yet eventually abandoned and there is no information available on what will become of this initiative.
- Naturalisation: Naturalisation has become more difficult to access for the majority of refugees, including for those who have been living in Cyprus for well over 10 years, were born in the country or arrived at a very young age. In many cases, the decision rejecting the application mentions that the refugee does not have sufficient ties to the country or is a burden for the state. Such findings are generally not justified, indicating an overall strict and negative attitude toward granting nationality to refugees. Furthermore, in practice there is no access to long term residence or any other permanent status.
- Family reunification: Access to family reunification remains a lengthy procedure for refugees. Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection (98% of Syrians present in the country) are not eligible for family reunification and often resort to irregular means to obtain reunification with family members.
- Residence permits for family members of refugees: Family unity is not upheld for relationships formed after entry to Cyprus, leaving spouses of refugees without a legal status or access to rights and including families who have been living in the country for many years.
Temporary protection procedure
- Legal framework: The TPD was transposed into the Refugee Law in 2004 and activated in March 2022. It is available for Ukrainian nationals who were residing in Ukraine before 01 February 2022 and third-country nationals who benefited from international protection or equivalent national protection in Ukraine, including stateless persons. Applications for TP can be made online and a residence permit will be issued soon after. Temporary Protection has been extended automatically until the 4 March 2024.
- Registrations for temporary protection: Until 31 December 2022, 13,893 individuals were registered for temporary protection and until 28 February 2023, 15,338 were registered for temporary protection.
Content of temporary protection
- Access to rights: TP holders have access to all rights included in the Directive, upon registration and in most cases without obstacles. Regarding financial support a small one-off amount is provided and accommodation options are limited. However, access to the labour market is immediate which has facilitated a significant number of TP holders to secure employment. Access to education is immediate but with limited support measures.