Forms and levels of material reception conditions

Cyprus

Country Report: Forms and levels of material reception conditions Last updated: 30/11/20

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Within the framework of the Refugee Law, material reception conditions refer to accommodation, food, clothing, and a daily allowance.[1] Material assistance can be provided in kind and / or in vouchers and if this is not possible, through financial aid.[2] In practice, if there is no vacancy in the Reception Centre, (which is currently the case) asylum seekers are allowed to file an application to the Social Welfare Services.

 

In relation to residents in the community being entitled to reception conditions, food and clothing are provided through vouchers, rent allowance is payable directly to landlords and the financial allowance to cover the cost of electricity, water and minor expenses is provided by cheque to the applicants. Residents of the reception centre are granted two hot meals per day and supplies to prepare breakfast.

 

The Refugee Law does not set the amount of material assistance provided to asylum seekers. It refers to assistance that would ensure “an adequate standard of living capable of ensuring their subsistence and to protect their physical and psychological health.”[3] It also provides that the amount of the assistance provided should be in accordance to the amounts granted for securing an adequate living standard to nationals.[4] Asylum seekers may be subjected to less favourable treatment compared to Cypriot citizens, especially when the amounts granted to the latter aim to secure a living standard which is higher than the one determined in the Refugee Law for asylum seekers.[5]

 

Since the first of June 2019 and following a Ministerial Decision dated 6 May 2019, the amounts granted for covering material reception conditions have been revised upwards.[6]

 

The detailed breakdown of the amounts granted to asylum seekers are as follows:

 

Number of persons

Food, clothing and footwear

(in voucher)

Allowance for electricity, water and minor expenses

1

€186

€75

2

€279

€100

3

€372

€140

4

€465

€170

5

€558

€200

 

Number of persons

Allowance for rent

Total amount of all assistance granted

Nicosia

Limassol

Famagusta

Larnaca

Paphos

1

€100

€100

€100

€100

€100

€361

2

€200

€218

€146

€174

€146

€525-597

3-4

€290

€317

€211

€252

€211

€723-829

5+

€364

€397

€265

€315

€265

€1,023-1,155

 

 

Although the Refugee Law has incorporated the recast Reception Conditions Directive’s provisions regarding the timely identification assessment and addressing special reception needs, there are no specific procedural guidelines / regulations or documentation governing the implementation of those provisions. Thus, currently, the needs assessment does not include any special needs such as disability, therefore these are not taken into account. The officially ceased, but still used in practice, “Application for Material Reception Conditions of Applicants for International Protection” and the general requirements do not seek any information on specific needs and / or vulnerable circumstances the applicant and their family may have.

 

Up until 2013 all recipients of social benefits including nationals and asylum seekers received the exact same financial support and this was regulated under the same law, the Public Allowance Law. After 2013, the coverage of asylum seekers’ needs has been regulated by distinct legislation and the allowance provided to them is no longer commensurate with the minimum social support provided to EU citizens. Currently, the amount to cover basic needs for nationals / EU citizens is regulated by the Guaranteed Minimum Income (GMI) law and it is set at €480 (in cash) per month for one person, while the corresponding amount for asylum seekers is €261 (in vouchers and cash).

 

The foreseen monthly rent allowance for nationals / EU citizens when it comes to a single person or a couple varies between €161.70 and €242, depending on the area where the person resides and increases to €235.20 – €352.80 for a family of three. The exact amount may be further adjusted without a cap due to the presence of special needs and the exact composition of the household.

 

For asylum seekers, rent is set at €100 for single persons and between €146 – 218 for two persons. It is increased to €211 – 317 for a family of three or four members and can reach up to a maximum of between €265 – 397 in case of families of four-five and above, without further adjustment. The Notification, which has officially ceased but is still used in practice, provides that non-related persons sharing a residence are also entitled to the same amounts for rent. This provision started being implemented by Social Welfare Services towards the end of 2017, although sporadically and not uniformly across districts. It was brought up again more systematically as a practice during 2019, affecting the total amount of rent provided to unrelated persons sharing accommodation.

 

The maximum amount of material assistance for a household of five or more asylum seekers is capped at €1,155 (out of which €265 – 397 is for rent), irrespective of the number of family members. The rent allowance is directly payable to the landlords upon the submission of necessary documentation (e.g. IBAN, confirmation from Inland Revenue Department). Vouchers for food and clothing can be redeemed at specific local shops located in different cities. In the case of nationals, under the new Guaranteed Minimum Income legislation, rent allowance is also paid directly to landlords. However, recipients do not receive any part of the allowance in vouchers as asylum seekers do. The Law provides for the possibility of further adjustments, depending on the needs of the household.

 

The material assistance was increased in 2019 for the first time since 2013 following repeated remarks from NGOs, UNHCR and others about being far from sufficient to cover the standard cost of living and housing in Cyprus.[7] Such inadequacy still emerges when looking at the difference between the rent allowance amounts for nationals and asylum seekers, and undermines the obligation to ensure dignified living conditions for asylum seekers. Such difference is also evident in the case of the allowances for daily expenses, food and clothing. Property analysts and other stakeholders report an annual increase of 18% in rent prices,[8] raising concerns as to whether the revised amounts are adequate to secure appropriate housing. The combination of a highly restrictive policy relating to the level of allowance and a sharp increase in rent prices has resulted in an alarming homelessness problem.[9]

 

Asylum seekers are not entitled to any other social benefits granted to nationals such as: grants / benefits under the Ministry of Finance, i.e. child benefits, which are proportional to the number of dependent children in the household, student grants, given to nationals who secure a position in university, the single parent benefit, in cases of single parent households, or the birth benefit given to single mothers if they are not eligible for a similar benefit from the Social Insurance office. Asylum seekers are also excluded from the grants / benefits of the Department for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, under the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, which include various benefits aimed to help disabled persons, notably, any special allowance for blind people, mobility allowance, financial assistance schemes for the provision of technical means, instruments and other aids, care allowance schemes for paraplegic / quadriplegic persons etc.

 


[1]Article 2 Refugee Law.

[2]Article 9IB Refugee Law.

[3]Article 9IA(1) Refugee Law.

[4]Article 9IB(2)(a) Refugee Law.

[5]Article 9IB(2)(b) Refugee Law.

[6]Decision of Council of Ministers 87.433.

[7]UNHCR, Living Conditions of Asylum Seekers in Cyprus, 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/39oGg0Q.

[8]RICS, Cyprus Property Price Index Q2 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2J7cg1k.

[9]UNHCR et al., ‘Joint Statement on the growing problem of homelessness among asylum-seekers in Cyprus’, 9 May 2018, available at: https://bit.ly/2Uk557g.

 

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