Access to the labour market

Cyprus

Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 30/11/20

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Cyprus Refugee Council Visit Website

According to the Refugee Law and Ministerial Decision 308/2018 issued at the end of October 2018, asylum seekers are permitted to access the labour market one month after the submission of an asylum application.[1] The Refugee Law affords the Minister of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance, in consultation with the Minister of Interior, the power to place restrictions and conditions on the right to employment, without hindering asylum seekers’ effective access to the labour market.[2]

 

On 10 May 2019[3] and on 20 June 2019,[4] additional decisions were issued by the Minister of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance, affording asylum seekers access to additional employment sectors.

 

At the moment, and according to the above mentioned decisions, the permitted fields of employments for asylum seekers are the following: 251

 

Permitted sectors and posts for asylum seekers

Sectors of labour market

Permitted occupations

Agriculture-Animal Husbandry-Fishery-Animal Shelters and Pet Hotels

-Agriculture Labourers

-Animal Husbandry Labourers

-Poultry Farm Labourers

-Fishery Labourers

-Fish Farm Labourers

 -Animal Caretakers

Processing

-Animal Feed Production Labourers

-Bakery and Dairy Production Night-Shift Labourers

-Loading / Unloading Labourers

 -Poultry Slaughterhouse Night-Shift Labourers

Waste Management

-Sewerage, Waste and Wastewater Treatment

Labourers

-Collection and Processing of Waste and Garbage Labourers

-Recycling Labourers

 -Animal Waste and Slaughterhouse Waste
 Processing Labourers

Trade-Repairs

-Petrol Station and Carwash Labourers

-Loading / Unloading Labourers

-Fish Market Labourers

 -Automobile Panel-Beaters and Spray-Painters

Service Provision

-Employment by Cleaning Companies as
 Cleaners of Buildings and Outdoor Areas

-Groundskeepers

-Loading / Unloading Labourers

 -Pest Control Labourers for Homes and Offices

Food Industry

 -Food Delivery Persons

Restaurants and Recreation Centres

 -Kitchen Aides, Cleaners

Hotels

 -Kitchen Aides, Cleaners

Other

 -Advertising Material Delivery Persons

 -Laundromat Labourers

 

Job referrals are usually given on a form along with the details of potential employers. Applicants are required to contact them directly, and the employer is expected to provide a written report on the outcome of the meeting. The form does not provide space for the asylum seekers’ statements on the outcome of the meeting, including, for instance, the reasons why it was not possible for the asylum seeker to be offered the job. Candidates need to report to the Labour Office following their contact with employers. If employment is secured, a contract needs to be signed and stamped by the District Labour Office. All employers recruiting asylum seekers are required to be authorised by the Labour Department to employ third-country nationals.

 

The terms and conditions, including remuneration of the occupations, depends on the employment sector. For example, animal farming and agricultural sectors are regulated based on the Collective Agreement of Agriculture and Animal Farming. At present, the salary is €455 (gross) per month. Accommodation and food may be provided by the employer. The salary may increase up to €769 per month if the employee is considered to be skilled for the position, or if there is a specific agreement with a trade union. However, in practice, asylum seekers are employed as unskilled labourers and in businesses where there is no presence of unions. Therefore, their wages remain at minimum levels.

 

It is also important to note that although collective agreements do exist for a number of professions in Cyprus, through a voluntary tripartite system (employers, unions, state), those are not legislatively regulated and implemented. There is also no set national level of minimum wage. Only nine professions are legislatively regulated (salespersons, clerks, nurse assistants, childcare assistants, baby nurse assistants, school assistants, guards, carers, cleaners) out of which asylum seekers are only allowed to exercise one (cleaners).

 

Additionally, all applicants and recipients of material reception conditions, who are physically and psychologically able to take up employment, are required to be registered as unemployed after the initial one-month period and show that they are actively seeking employment. A labour card is issued to the asylum seekers in order for their unemployment status to be confirmed.

 

In regard to the obstacles faced by asylum seekers in accessing the labour market, the most prominent ones are the following:

  • Low wages and lack of supplementary material assistance: Remuneration from employment is often highly insufficient to meet the basic needs of a family. This is particularly problematic for asylum seekers with families and has a knock-on effect of the sharp increase of rents in urban areas as well as a lack of supplementary measures for asylum seekers with low income. Labour conditions such as taking up accommodation at the place of work often lead to splitting up the family. These jobs can also be offered to single parents without taking into consideration the care of children or possible supplementary assistance for childcare support.
  • Distance and lack of convenient transportation: Given the nature of employment that asylum seekers are permitted to take up, workplaces are often situated in remote rural regions and working hours may start as early as 4 or 5 am. Asylum seekers have reported difficulties in commuting to these workplaces using low-cost transportation (e.g. public buses). Remuneration does not cover travel expenses.
  • Language barriers: Lack of communication skills in Greek and English often impede the efficient communication between officials of Labour Offices as well as potential employers. Many asylum seekers are unable to understand their prospective employers’ opinion during meetings and / or the employers’ opinions on their job referral forms.
  • Lack of interest from employers in the agricultural and farming sectors in employing asylum seekers. In fact, many employers in these sectors often prefer to employ third-country nationals who arrive in the country with an employment permit and are authorised to work for a period of up to four years. In order to receive a licence for the employment of third-country nationals, an employer is required to register at the Labour Office in addition to actively seeking employees locally, nationally or within the EU.[5] As asylum seekers are referred to them by the Labour Office, the employers may try to avoid recruiting them, hoping that if they do not hire an asylum seeker, they will be able to invite / hire other workers on a working visa. Thus, they often place the responsibility of refusing the employment on the asylum seekers.
  • Lack of gender and cultural sensitivity in the recruitment procedure: Female asylum seekers often face difficulties accessing employment for reasons related to cultural barriers.[6] For example, many women have never worked before and when it comes to the conditions in the sectors of agriculture and animal farming (remoteness, staying overnight, male dominated work spaces) there is a need for gradual and facilitated transition to employment. Women from Muslim backgrounds wearing visible symbols of their religious identity e.g. hijab / niqab report having faced difficulties accessing the labour market, as in some cases, they were considered as unable to maintain employment due to their attire, according to the experience of the Cyprus Refugee Council. There have also been reports on behalf of African candidates regarding the unwillingness of employers to hire them in front-desk positions.
  • Lengthy procedures governing the recruitment of asylum seekers: In order for an employer to hire an asylum seeker, an application must be filed at the Labour Department along with a personal contract for the candidate he / she wants to hire. The Labour Department will inquire whether the employer is reliable by checking that there are no debts/convictions regarding social insurance contributions, that there is an active liability insurance and (where it applies) and that the terms and conditions of hiring an asylum seeker are the same as in the case of nationals performing the same duties in the company. Those procedures take on average three months to conclude, which, as a result, is very difficult and unattractive to employers, despite the shortage of personnel in some of the allowed sectors.
  • Lack of appropriate information in respect of terms / conditions of employment, labour rights, complaint mechanisms: It is often reported that asylum seekers are unaware of their legal rights, the exact terms and conditions of their prospective employment and have no knowledge of available complaint mechanisms.
  • Problematic access to the services of the Labour Department. Existing capacity of the Labour Department prohibits asylum seekers from effectively using its job-seeking services. In the last six-months, and particularly in Nicosia, the public employment service is unable to attend all persons visiting its offices. This has led to the formation of long waiting lines, often with people gathering outside the office from 04:00 – 05:00 am in order to increase the chances of being seen during the day. This situation disrupted access to reception conditions, since registration at the Labour Department is a prerequisite.

 

As a measure of coping with the situation, the Labour Department decided to serve asylum seekers looking for work not every month, as it used to be the case, but every two or three months. However, due to the outbreak of Covid-19, asylum seekers who have already registered with the Department, are not required to visit the Labour Department at all, until further notice, as the latter has ceased its operations. This development is not expected to affect persons’ access to reception conditions. This is not the case for asylum seekers whose file was terminated in the past and are now willing to re-register, as well as for newly arrived asylum seekers who want to register for the first time. Currently their access to labour services is not allowed, which is expected to adversely affect their access to reception conditions. Further monitoring is required to assess the situation.

 

An additional obstacle which is often reported includes the delays in the issuance of the Alien’s Registration Certificate (ARC) number for new asylum seekers which, along with the permission to enter the labour market after one month from the lodging of their asylum application, has led to reports of people not being able to register at Labour Offices until they have an ARC number issued.

 

According to Article 9I(1) and (2) of the Refugee Law, asylum seekers are permitted to take part in vocational trainings linked to employment contracts, relevant to the permitted sectors of employment for asylum seekers, unless otherwise authorised by the Minister of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. In practice, there are no professional training schemes available for those specific sectors.

 


[1]Article 9Θ(1)(b) Refugee Law; Ministerial Decision 308/2018, 26 October 2018.

[2]Article 9Θ(2)(a)-(b) Refugee Law.

[3]See Cyprus Mail, ‘Conditions at Kofinou asylum centre remain substandard, human rights officials say’, January 2017, available at: https://bit.ly/2IPSODq.

[5]Circular on the Strategy for the employment of third-country nationals (Στρατηγική για την Απασχόληση Αλλοδαπών), May 2008, available at: https://bit.ly/2vTk0ye.

[6]See also Ombudsman, Report on access of female asylum seekers to employment and social welfare, 1799/2016, 11 November 2016.

 

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