Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions

Cyprus

Country Report: Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions Last updated: 16/04/21

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Reception conditions may be reduced or withdrawn by a decision of the Asylum Service following an individualised, objective, and impartial decision, which is adequately justified and announced to the applicant.[1] Such a decision is subject to the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as the latter is ratified and incorporated into national legislation.[2] However, there are no guidelines regulating the implementation of that possibility and, in practice, the enjoyment of reception conditions by children is dependent upon their parents’ eligibility to access them.

Under the Refugee Law, reception conditions may be reduced or – in exceptional and duly justified cases – withdrawn by the Asylum Service, where:[3]

  • The applicant’s place of residence has been determined by a decision issued by the Minister of Interior for reasons of public interest or public order when necessary for the swift processing and effective monitoring of the person’s application and such a decision has been breached;
  • The applicant fails to comply with the obligation to timely inform the authorities in regards to changes of his or her place of residence;
  • For a period longer than two weeks, and without adequate justification, the applicant does not appear for a personal interview or does not comply with a request of the Asylum Service to provide information concerning the examination of the asylum application;
  • The applicant has submitted a subsequent application;
  • The applicant has concealed financial resources;
  • The applicant has not lodged an application “as soon as reasonably practicable”. The Refugee Law only allows for reduction of reception conditions in such a case. However, monitoring is required in order to assess how the provision is applied.

In the case of people residing in the community, the Social Welfare Service can also reject, in full or in part, an application for reception conditions, or can cease in full or in part, the provision of reception conditions, if the applicant has sufficient resources to secure his or her subsistence and provide an adequate standard of living from a health perspective (see Criteria and Restrictions to Access Reception Conditions).

In practice, there is no assessment of the risk of destitution by Social Welfare Services, either during the examination of the application for assistance or before a decision is issued to terminate assistance. The sufficiency and adequacy of resources that can ensure a dignified standard of living are not taken into account. For example, if any of the applicants secure employment, the provision of material reception conditions is immediately terminated without taking into account whether the remuneration is sufficient to cover the basic and/or special needs of applicants and their family members. This situation often forces asylum seekers into destitution. For persons who are found to have concealed details about their financial situation, usually there is no other action taken on behalf of the Welfare Services, apart from the termination of their welfare file.

Being considered wilfully unemployed is one of the most frequent reasons for exclusion from welfare aid. A person can be deemed wilfully unemployed upon any refusal of an employment offer, even if there is a total lack of transportation to/from the workplace, and an inability to pay for child-care in order to attend work etc.

Any decision regarding the reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions should be based on the particular situation of the vulnerable persons, taking into account the principle of proportionality.[4] In practice, this provision is not implemented. Therefore, vulnerable persons residing in the community may also find themselves without any coverage of reception conditions. By the end of 2020, the number of wilfully unemployed asylum seekers has been drastically reduced due to the decision of the Labour Department not to carry out new registrations of asylum seekers as part of the measures to address Covid-19 and therefore material conditions are provided by the Welfare Services without job referrals. Furthermore, for asylum seekers who had been registered with the Labour Department prior to the pandemic the number of referrals to jobs in 2020 was extremely low due to the pandemic and, again, in such cases asylum seekers received material conditions without having to prove that they are actively pursuing employment.

Still, the particular decision of SWS came several months after the initiation of the Labour Department practice. This was a source of destitution for asylum seekers who were not permitted to register for the first time in the Labour Department as unemployed, and particularly for those who had their labour office files terminated/under review just before the measures were taken, since they could not receive MRC.

The partial restriction of reception conditions only applies to persons not residing in a reception centre and, in particular, to persons receiving aid from Welfare Services. For those persons, rent allowance can be rejected if they are not able to submit all the required documents and other required information regarding the property they are renting, which currently include (apart from taxation stamps for agreements exceeding €5,000) signatures and ID numbers of two witnesses, as well as copy of the property title. That means that they can receive amounts for covering electricity costs and other bills and daily expenses, but not rent.

Decisions revoking welfare aid are often, but not always, communicated in writing, but do not include detailed information on the reasons. The assessment is performed by Welfare Officers. The decision can be challenged judicially before the IPAC, however no such cases were ever brought before the courts, as they were considered difficult to challenge in practice. The Legal Aid Law allows persons to apply for legal aid against such decisions,[5] however as in the asylum procedures (see Regular Procedure: Legal Assistance) a ‘means and merits’ test has been included, according to which, an asylum seeker applying for legal aid must show that he or she does not have the means to pay for the services of a lawyer and that “the appeal has a real chance of success”.[6] To date there is no information of applications for legal aid or cases being submitted in relation to reception conditions.

For people who have been rejected by Welfare Services and are not referred to a reception centre, there is no uniform policy on when they will be able to have access again to reception conditions. Often, a three-month ban is applied but this varies between welfare officers and cities. For any of the decisions described above, there is no assessment regarding the risk of destitution.

People who reside in reception centres can be evicted if they do not comply with the centre’s operation rules, as described in the Refugee Law. According to the Refugee Law, a dignified standard of living, as well as access to care and support, should be secured for all asylum seekers whose reception conditions have been reduced or withdrawn, including for persons who were evicted by the Reception Centre for breaching its rules of operation.[7] However, examples of such practice are scarce.

There has not been any limitation to the provision of reception conditions in relation to large numbers of arrivals, however the numbers have aggravated the pre-existing systemic issues, such as difficulties accessing the Welfare offices, longer delays and frustration on behalf of frontline officers, and disrupted access to job-seeking services of the Labour Department. It has also triggered a recent announcement of more stringent measures by the Minister of Interior, including, among others, the creating closed-type hosting centres (see above) as well as the transformation of Pournara First Reception Centre into a closed facility.

 

 

[1]           Article 9KB(1)(a) Refugee Law.

[2]           Article 9KB(1) Refugee Law.

[3]           Article 9KB(1)(a) Refugee Law.

[4]           Article 9KB(2) Refugee Law.

[5]           Article 6A(6) Legal Aid Law.

[6]           Article 6B(2)(b)(bb) Legal Aid Law.

[7]           Article 9Δ Refugee Law.

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