The Refugee Law grants asylum seekers the right to free movement and choice of residence in the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus (RoC). Therefore asylum seekers cannot cross the “green line” to the northern areas not under the control of the RoC, although other third-country nationals who are legally in Cyprus either as visitors or under some form of residence, employment or student permit do have the right to cross.
The Minister of Interior may restrict freedom of movement within some the controlled areas and decide on the area of residence of an asylum seeker for reasons of public interest or order.
Asylum seekers currently reside where they choose, as to date there have been no decisions issued by the Minister of Interior appointing the area of residence of asylum seekers for reasons of public interest or order. They are obliged to report any changes of living address to the authorities either within five working days or as soon as possible after changing their address. If they fail to do so, they may be considered to have withdrawn their asylum application, although in practice the Cyprus Refugee Council has not received such complaints. There is no legislative differentiation regarding the provision of material conditions based on the area of residence.
In 2019, newly arrived asylum seekers that presented themselves to the Immigration Offices in Nicosia are transferred to the First Registration Reception Centre in Kokkinotrimithia (Pournara) to undergo identification, registration and make their application as well as undergo a medical screening and vulnerability assessment. The medical test includes tuberculosis screening (Mantoux test), HIV, Hepatitis. Their movement is restricted within the premises of the facility for 72 hours, until the results of the tests are concluded. In practice, if asylum seekers have negative medical tests they will leave in five-seven days. If positive, the duration of stay may be longer as they will be re-tested and if found positive referred for medical treatment. Due to the high numbers of applicants in 2019 the tuberculosis screening and re-examination in cases of a first positive decision often led to delays and there were instances where asylum seekers stayed in the Centre for one month. As mentioned in the section on Detention, this practice, since early 2020, has changed.
So far, the only official dispersal scheme was performed in 2011 with regard to Palestinians from Iraq who were residing in Larnaca. It was conducted by the Asylum Service aiming at the geographical dispersal of both beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers residing in the city. The community of Palestinians from Iraq included around 2,000 persons at that time, of which a small number of people was working. Following intense public debate concerning the allowances granted to asylum seekers/refugees and in the absence of a coherent and effective integration policy, the authorities asked Palestinians to move to other cities (mainly Nicosia and Limassol). The goal was to increase the chances of the refugee population to secure employment and to release the pressure felt by part of the local Cypriot community which was showing signs of intolerance towards that particular group. There is no official information on whether this scheme actually led to increased employment opportunities for those refugees, as the vast majority of Palestinians from Iraq left the country within the next year.
Article 9KB(2) and (4) Refugee Law.
Article 9E(1) Refugee Law.
Article 8(2)(a) Refugee Law.
European Migration Network (EMN), The Organisation of Reception Facilities for Asylum Seekers in the different Member States: Cyprus, 2013, available at: http://bit.ly/1f71AM1; UNHCR Cyprus, The needs of refugees and the integration process in Cyprus, May 2013, available at: https://bit.ly/2TRCsAv, 97.