Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 08/04/22
The report was previously updated in April 2021.
- 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’. In November 2021, Cyprus and Israel reached an agreement for the Israeli military to build surveillance system to track activity along Cyprus’s Green Line. According to reports, the new technology will help monitor attempts at smuggling and illegal migration, and the country will receive support in terms of military intelligence.
- Pushbacks: In 2021, Cypriot authorities, continued to carry out pushbacks of boats carrying mainly Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians who had departed from Turkey or Lebanon. According to reports, 8 push backs were carried out throughout the year. Besides push backs at sea, in May 2021, three Cameroonians approached the RoC police at the Ledra Palace crossing point to seek asylum and were pushed back to the Buffer Zone, were they remained in tents for a period of 6 months. One of the Cameroonians entered the areas under the effective control of the RoC irregularly in autumn 2021 whereas the other 2 were included in the group of persons to be relocated to Italy by Pope Francis following a visit to Cyprus in December 2021. In another incident, in December 2021, an 18-year-old Nigerian woman approached the RoC police at the Ledra Palace crossing point to seek asylum and was pushed back into the Buffer Zone. She returned to the areas not under the effective control of the RoC.
- Key asylum statistics: The backlog of pending asylum applications remains extremely high, with long processing periods, a trend which is expected to continue throughout 2022. In 2020, 6,651 new asylum applications were submitted, 7,389 decisions were issued (90 refugee status, 1020 subsidiary protection and 4,355 negative) and 18,995 cases were pending end of year. These numbers almost doubled in 2021, when 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, which currently is comprised of a total of 29 countries. The aim was to examine all applications from safe countries under the accelerated procedures. Nevertheless, accelerated procedures were not widely used in practice.
- Response to the crisis in Ukraine as of 30 March 2022: Visa-free travel to Cyprus remains possible, including with non-biometric passports. The TPD was transposed into the Refugee Law in 2004 and is currently available for Ukrainian nationals who were residing in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 and third-country nationals who benefited from international protection or equivalent national protection in Ukraine before 24 February 2022, including stateless persons. It is yet to be clarified if such status will be provided also for Ukrainians who left the country before 24 February 2022. Applications for the TPD can be made online and a residence permit will be issued soon after. Regarding reception conditions, persons covered by the TPD will be given access to all rights included in the Directive, even if the procedures to access them remain unclear.
- 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 were made in terms of procedures required to hire asylum seekers. This facilitated access to employment and increased the numbers of asylum seekers accessing the labour market, but further monitoring is required with regards to working conditions and respect of labour rights.
- 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, with approximately 50 asylum seekers detained at all times of the year. 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 will lead to the adoption of a multi-year integration strategy, has yet to be fully deployed and there is no information available on when this will happen.
- 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.