During the administrative and judicial instance of the procedure, asylum seekers have the right to access material reception conditions. Specifically, according to national legislation, asylum seekers are entitled to material reception conditions as follows:
Regular and accelerated procedure: Asylum seekers are entitled to material reception conditions from the making of the application up to the issuance of a decision by the IPAC.
Dublin procedure: During the procedure to identify the Member State responsible, a person is considered an asylum seeker. Thus, if a person arrives in Cyprus and there is a possibility that another Member State is responsible, they enjoy all the rights as an asylum seeker including material reception conditions. Regarding asylum seekers returned to Cyprus under the Dublin Regulation, if their asylum case is still under examination, they will be entitled to material reception conditions. If their asylum application has been determined upon, they are not entitled to reception conditions and may be detained.
Appeals: Appeals submitted before the IPAC for decisions issued in the regular procedure have suspensive effect and provide access to reception conditions until the issuance of the IPAC’s decision. An appeal for decisions issued in the accelerated procedure; subsequent applications; decisions that determine the asylum application unfounded or inadmissible; and decisions related to explicit or implicit withdrawal do not have suspensive effect and a separate application must be submitted before the IPAC requesting the right to remain.
Subsequent application: Until recently once a subsequent application was submitted the applicant had the right to remain and access reception conditions during the examination of the admissibility of the application.  However, in 2022 following a decision issued by the Supreme Court once a subsequent application is submitted, the applicant is not considered an asylum seeker, and until the administrative examination of the subsequent application, the discretion to examine the applicant’s right to remain in the Republic, belongs to the Head of the Asylum Service. In practice no applicants have received the right to remain and access to reception conditions during the administrative examination of a subsequent application.
According to the Refugee Law, when an application for asylum is made, the AIU refers the applicant to the district SWS. The applicant has a right to apply for the provision of material reception conditions upon presenting a confirmation that the application has been made. However, the law also provides that this confirmation is provided three days after the application is actually lodged. Furthermore, the Law allows for six days to elapse between making and lodging an application. The transposition of the recast Reception Conditions and Asylum Procedures Directives into the Refugee Law is problematic with regard to the distinction between “making” and “lodging” an application and, as a result, the time upon which access to reception conditions is actually provided. In practice and since 2019, all persons wishing to apply for asylum who entered the country in an irregular manner, are referred to the Pournara First Reception Centre for registration, lodging of asylum application, and medical and vulnerability screenings. Access to reception conditions is provided at the Centre for a stay of approximately 40 to 60 days. Upon exiting the Centre, asylum seekers will have access to reception conditions in the community or in the Reception Centres (Kofinou, UASC shelters), whereas a limited number of persons are moved to the Reception/Pre-Removal Center, Limnes. As there is limited capacity at Kofinou Reception Center the majority of asylum seekers live in the community. For persons who arrive in a regular manner and who will register their asylum application at the AIU they can apply for MRC at the District Social Welfare Offices upon concluding registration.
There are no particular provisions about asylum seekers having resources already upon requesting material reception conditions. However, there are several incidences in relation to resources that will lead to termination of the benefit of material reception conditions (see Reduction of withdrawal of receptions conditions).
In order to access MRC an application must be submitted to the Social Welfare Services (SWS). The application can be submitted with the Confirmation letter, however the SWS require the applicant to submit in the application the number on the Aliens Registration Certificate (ARC) to be entitled to all reception conditions (food/clothing allowances, personal expenses, rent). If an asylum seeker applies for welfare benefits without an ARC, they may be granted part of the foreseen amounts through vouchers, until the ARC number is issued. In the past years the delays in issuance of the ARC led to serious delays in accessing MRC, however since 2020, delays in the issuance of the ARC have been minimized and asylum seekers registered in Pournara typically exit with the ARC issued.
Until recently asylum seekers registered in Pournara, could only apply for MRC once they had exited Pournara, which led to delays until they received financial assistance. Furthermore, asylum seekers do not have freedom of movement while staying in Pournara and they can only exit Pournara upon presenting a valid address in the community. This means that asylum seekers are not able to easily search for accommodation and are not provided assistance from state or non-state agencies in this respect. This has led to a significant increase in exploitation and scams from persons in the community toward asylum seekers. In August 2022 the SWS with the assistance of UNHCR and CyRC assisted the Social Welfare Services to pilot a new procedure where asylum seekers submit an application for MRC before exiting the Center. This led to the procedure being established in Pournara, however due to staffing and organisational issues not all persons are given access to this procedure and a significant number of persons still exit the centre without applying for MRC.
Applying for MRC while in Pournara has led to a faster examination of applications for MRC. This is not the case for applicants of MRC residing already in the community, which, currently, need to wait for app. 2 months in order be able to submit an application for MRC.
For all applicants of MRC, SWS schedule a visit at their place of residence in order to verify their address. Delays in the allocation of MRC are often observed, since these visits may take place 1-3 months after the submission of the application.
From 2016 until 2022 the criteria and level of MRC were not included in the Law or in a Ministerial decision but only in the application used in practice for MRC. In 2022 a new Ministerial Decision which determines the criteria and level of MRC was issued, as well as a new application form. According to the new Ministerial Decision, to become a beneficiary of MRC the person must be an applicant for international protection, for whom MRC cannot be covered in Reception and/or Accommodation Centers, who lives in the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus and both the applicant and their family members meet the following conditions:
- No member of the applicant’s family is employed.
- In the event that the applicant or any member of their family is employed, the family may continue to receive assistance as long as the monthly income is less than the total amount of assistance to which the family is entitled.
- According to the Decree of the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance, dated 4/10/2021, applicants of international protection have the right to access the labour market after one (1) month from the date of submission of the application for international protection. Once applicants acquire the right to work, they should:
(a) be registered as unemployed in the Register of the Public Employment Service;
(b) accept work in specific sectors that have been determined, based on the Decree of the Minister of Labor and Social Insurance.
(c) participate, if invited, in professional training programs and/or educational courses, and Greek language classes
(d) accept the provision of personalized approach services by qualified employment advisers of the Public Employment Service;
(e) accept meetings and visits to their place of residence for on-site evaluation of their situation by the competent Social Welfare Officers regarding the planning of activities for their vocational and counselling guidance, psychosocial support and social reintegration;
The Ministerial Decision also states that applicants for international protection who have disabilities, are unable to work or are over 63 years of age, do not have the obligation to register with the Public Employment Service (Labour Office).
Regarding family members the Ministerial Decision states that for the purposes of examining an application for MRC, the status of an applicant for international protection is also held by the applicant’s family members who reside with them, regardless of whether they are included in the applicant’s application for international protection or whether they have submitted a separate application for international protection. Family members means any of the following members of the applicant’s family unit who reside in the government controlled areas:
- a) The applicant’s spouse or partner, with whom the applicant lives and shares a residence for accommodation purposes.
- b) the minor and unmarried children either of the applicant, or of the applicant and his/her spouse or according to paragraph (a) of his/her partner.
- Unmarried children still attending school.
- Unmarried children who have reached the age of eighteen (18) and are searching for employment even if they submitted a separate application for international protection.
III. Unmarried children between eighteen (18) and twenty-three (23) years of age, as long as they receive regular education.
The revised application for MRC is available in English and it collects basic information for the applicant and the household members as well as information on spoken languages and the need for a translator. The Social Welfare Services will not accept the application, unless a copy of the confirmation of submission of application for asylum, a copy of the Alien Registration number (ARC) and – if more than a month since the date of the application for asylum has passed – a confirmation of registration with the Labour Office as unemployed, is submitted.
Delays in the examination of the application and granting of financial assistance are still observed. Currently, the average processing time of applications for material reception conditions at the SWS is approximately 2-6 months, depending on the district. This is due to various administrative difficulties, among which: staff shortages; demanding paperwork to be completed and documentation to be gathered and submitted by beneficiaries; the requirement for Welfare Officers to go through a time-consuming administrative procedure for all asylum-seeking beneficiaries in order for the benefits to be approved every month; difficulties experienced by the applicants in physically reaching and meeting with Welfare Officers. Furthermore, although the application for material assistance can be submitted without a rental contract in such cases applicants will not receive rent allowances and the received amounts for bills and daily expenses will also be reduced.
Since the registration of asylum seekers takes place at Pournara, access to reception conditions is directly impacted by the possibility of persons to access Pournara. In early 2020, asylum seekers were not allowed to exit the Centre, as a response by the authorities to the high numbers of arrivals and then as a response to Covid-19 pandemic. As a result the Centre soon exceeded capacity and no alternative access to asylum procedures was provided, leaving persons unregistered and with no access to reception conditions. This led to persons remaining homeless and sleeping rough near and around the AIU in Nicosia for days, before being sent to Pournara, where they were accommodated in tents outside the designated area of the facility.
In early 2021, approximately 200 asylum seekers were placed in tents outside the Centre in extremely substandard conditions waiting to enter the Center. The situation did not improve throughout 2021, and extremely long delays in accessing the Centre and registering asylum applications were reported, leading to hundreds waiting outside in dire conditions. The delays were also caused by the fact that the AIU carried out interviews on the routes followed and mode of entry into the country – as well as verification of identification and documents – before allowing persons to enter the Centre. Persons with a passport or some form of identification document were given access faster than those who had no documents, and many had to wait for weeks to access the Centre. In late 2021, based on recommendation from UNHCR a pre-admission section was created with chemical toilets, to accommodate people awaiting registration.
In early 2022, it was reported that between 40 and 50 persons daily were not admitted into the Centre for registration after their arrival and did not have access to reception conditions and had to return multiple times before being granted access. Furthermore, in mid-2022 the authorities dismantled all the tents in the pre-submission section, leaving only 3 tents which are currently placed outside the Centre. There were approximately 100-150 persons outside the Centre each morning waiting for admission, with only 50-60 allowed in each day. The remaining persons either reside in the 3 tents or leave the area and return the following day. Persons without any documentation wait significantly longer before they are admitted into the Centre. Overall, throughout 2022 the number of persons waiting to be registered and therefore not having access to reception conditions fluctuated and on average 40-60 persons were admitted each day. The authorities prioritize persons with passports or valid documentation, whereas persons without passports wait approximately 2 weeks before they are admitted into the Centre.
 Article 11(B)(2) Refugee Law.
 Article 8 (1A) Refugee Law.
 16Δ (4)(a), Refugee Law.
 Appeal against the decision of the Administrative Court No. 8/2022, Sohel Madber v. Republic of Cyprus, 17 November 2022, available at https://rb.gy/xrdoyp
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council
 Article 9IA(3) Refugee Law
 The confirmation provided is titled ‘Confirmation of Submission of an Application for International Protection’.
 Article 8(1)(b) Refugee Law.
 Article 11(4)(a) Refugee Law.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.
 For further information see AIDA 2021.
 Ministerial Decision 93.451, made on 28/7/2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3Yrn5wN.
 Available at: https://bit.ly/3F2mk6C.
 Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.
 Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.