Access to the labour market


Country Report: Access to the labour market Last updated: 09/05/24


Cyprus Refugee Council Visit Website

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.[1] Following a period of 5 years (2018 -2023) during which access to the employment was permitted one month after lodging an asylum application,[2] since October 2023 and according to the Ministerial Decree/Decision 312/2023 asylum seekers are permitted to access the labour market nine months after submitting their asylum application.[3] This the longest period of prohibiting access to asylum seekers set by a ministerial decision, since 2006.

The above mentioned Decree, which was issued in early 2023, was expected to come in effect in August 2023. Following an initial postponement, it entered into effect on 1st October 2023. Apart from the 9-month ban in accessing employment for asylum seekers, the Decree sets a new administrative procedure for hiring asylum seekers.

A previous decree, issued in 2021 by the Minister of Labour, Welfare, and Social Insurance, allowed asylum seekers to legally commence work before a final, formal decision on the employer’s application to acquire the necessary permit to employ asylum seekers was issued by the Labour Department.[4] As of October 2023, the employer must submit an application to the Ministry of Labour in order to employ asylum seekers and the employment is considered lawful after the application is approved.

In regards to the permitted employment sectors, there are no substantial changes in the latest decree. Currently, according to the Decree 312/2023,[5] the permitted fields of employments for asylum seekers are the following:

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


-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

-Assistant Automobile Panel-Beaters and Spray-Painters

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

-Advertising Material Delivery Persons

-Food Delivery Persons


-Loading / Unloading Labourers

-Pest Control Labourers for Homes and Offices

Restaurants and Recreation Centres/Hotels -Kitchen Aides, Cleaners

-Food Delivery Persons

Other -Laundromat Labourers

The shortage of staff observed in financial sectors in Cyprus particularly in the tourism industry, but also in the food and beverage and construction sectors continues and has led employer’s organizations[6] to hiring non-EU citizens is facilitated by the authorities to overcome acute staff shortages.[7]

According to the Ministerial Decree, persons on work permits who were already employed in Farming/Agriculture sector before they applied for asylum, are not allowed to leave their job. Should both parties (employer and employee) agree to terminate the employment, that person will only be allowed to work a job within the same sector/profession.

The Decree also foresees that in the case of asylum seekers working for cleaning companies that offer services in the Tourism businesses (in which, according to the Decree provisions, asylum seekers are currently not allowed to be directly employed by cleaning companies, but may, for example, be employed by hotels as cleaners) the terms and conditions of the position should be regulated by the tourism sectoral collective agreement.

Similarly, if an asylum seeker works for a cleaning company that offers services in the Food and Beverages Industry (for example restaurants, bars etc), the terms and conditions of the job should be regulated by the Leisure Centres Legislation.

Asylum seekers who have secured work contribute to the National Health System (GESY) by an amount proportional to their salary and deducted every month. Still, they are not allowed to access GESY services and receive lower standard health care through public hospitals.

According to 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, however, there are no professional training schemes available for those specific sectors.

Procedure with the Labour Department

All applicants and recipients of MRC who are physically and psychologically able to take up employment are required to register as unemployed after the initial nine-month period and actively seek employment. In order to maintain their unemployment status, they need to renew within specific time-frames their registration in the Labour Department.

The Labour Department provides job referrals to asylum seekers. Applicants are required to contact the employers 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 a job. Asylum seekers cannot challenge the statements of the employer. This may lead to asylum seekers being considered as wilfully unemployed by the Labour Department and the SWS, resulting in loss of MRC and there is no effective procedure to challenge those results.[8]

Candidates who contact employers also need to report to the Labour Department. All employers recruiting asylum seekers are required to be authorised by the Labour Department. To do so, an application must be filed at the Labour Department containing details of the prospect employee. The application must be accompanied with a confirmation that the employer has all responsibilities towards the Social Insurance Department settled. By submitting the application to hire an asylum seeker, the employer agrees to provide active liability insurance and to inform the employee in writing about the employment terms which must be at the same level with those of other staff.

Under the previous Decree, issued in 2021[9] and applicable up to late 2023, the application of the employer to hire an asylum seeker should be accompanied, among other documents, with an employment  contract signed by both the employee and the employer. Although the process of reviewing the contract was particularly lengthy, asylum seekers were allowed to start working before a final, formal decision on the employer’s application was reached which had facilitated access of asylum seekers to jobs and allowed for higher numbers of asylum seekers to enter the labour market.

Under the latest Decree, the submission of the contract is no longer required. This has allowed for a faster conclusion of the examination of the employer’s application, since there is no contract to be reviewed and approved by the competent authorities. At the same time, however, employees’ access to important information regarding their rights, employment terms, the hiring process and the outcome of the employer’s application, is not safeguarded or facilitated.

During 2023, some disruptions in the employment of asylum seekers who were rejected at first instance and had filed an appeal at IPAC were reported. This was due to delays in updating information in the online system used by Social Insurance Services and employers that indicates the eligibility of asylum seekers to work. Further monitoring is required. In any case, the 9-months ban to enter employment imposed by the latest Decree[10] and the speed up of processing decisions on asylum claims, has led to a sharp decline in the interest of employers to hire asylum seekers. This was the case despite the shortage of staff and the insufficient procedures to import staff from non-EU countries on a work permit.[11]

Terms and conditions of employment

The increased numbers of asylum seekers entering legal employment during 2021-2023 had allowed for higher numbers of asylum seekers claiming social insurance benefits, such as unemployment benefit, maternity benefit and others. Although further monitoring is required, observations[12] indicate that certain Social Insurance benefits, such as unemployment benefits, are not routinely granted to asylum seekers.

According to the 2021 MLWSI annual report,[13] 33 (1.55%) out of a total of 2,133 complaints submitted to the Labour Relations Department, were made by asylum seekers and non-EU students. The 2022 MLSWI annual report[14] indicates a decrease in the complaints filed by Cypriot and EU citizens and an increase of the complaints filed by Asylum seekers and non-EU students (99 complaints, 5.2%). CyRC assists asylum seekers to file such complaints.

A Ministerial Decree[15] issued in August 2022 established a National Minimum Wage in Cyprus with effect from January 2023. A new Decree, issued in December 2023[16] increased the minimum wage to 900 EUR for the first 6 months of employment, and to 1000 EUR after six months of continuous employment. Domestic workers, workers in agriculture and farming, workers in shipping, and workers covered by the relevant Decree for the Hospitality Sector issued in 2020, are excluded from the Minimum Wage provisions. The exact duration of the working day is not regulated and can vary among different businesses/sectors.

Concerns raised by trade unions in regards to remuneration, the revisions of minimum wage and actual implementation, still continue.[17] Furthermore, although collective agreements do exist for a number of professions in Cyprus through a voluntary tripartite system (employers, unions, state), they are not legislatively regulated and imposed.

Online registration

Since September 2021, registrations and renewals of registrations for unemployed persons in the Public Employment Services (PES) are performed online.[18]  All beneficiaries of PES are required to create an individual online account and visit frequently the website to maintain their registration active. While online, the system is not automated. The registration process and the use of the system still require direct email exchange, and/or telephone communications with Labour Officers, who still need to perform various verification procedures. This situation results in particularly limited capacity to timely attend and resolve issues, as well as poor employment-related guidance.

Obstacles faced by asylum seekers in accessing the labour market

The most prominent ones are the following:

  • Limited allowed sectors: Asylum seekers are allowed to work in particular sectors of the economy, specified by a Ministerial Decree[19] in line with the provisions of the strategy for the employment of third-country nationals.[20] The strategy grants priority to nationals and EU citizens in accessing employment and foresees the possibility to approve the employment of non-EU citizens in sectors where the labour check procedure indicates persistent lack of local/EU staff. Apart from the currently allowed sectors for asylum seekers, the employers’ organizations have been persistently pointing out high staff shortages in additional economy sectors, requiring permission to hire non-EU workers in order to cover their needs. However, the permitted working sectors for asylum seekers remain limited, significantly narrowing the available job options in sectors with lower wages and worst conditions.
  • Low wages and lack of adequate supplementary material assistance: Remuneration from employment is typically highly insufficient to meet the needs of a household. This is particularly problematic for asylum seekers with families and is compounded by the sharp increase of rent in urban areas as well as a lack of effective supplementary measures for asylum seekers with low income. The salary of an asylum seeker is now taken into consideration by the Social Welfare Services in order to determine the level of material reception conditions. However, given the height of the minimum wage and the very low amounts provided as MRC, few families are able to receive both MRC and salary. For example, a family with 4 members where only one of them is working with the minimum wage, will not be entitled to any MRC.
  • Distance and lack of convenient transportation: Although the expansion of the permitted sectors for asylum seekers provides employment opportunities in urban areas, many jobs remain in remote regions, and working hours may include night shifts, or start as early as 04:00 or 05:00 am. Asylum seekers have reported difficulties in commuting to these workplaces using low-cost transportation (e.g. public buses) as public transportation usually starts from around 06:00am and is poorly connected in rural areas.
  • Language barriers: Lack of communication skills in Greek and English often impede efficient communication with 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.
  • Decline in interest from employers to employ asylum seekers: Businesses and employers are becoming more reluctant to employ asylum seekers due to the 9-month ban in accessing work following the asylum application imposed in October 2023. Additionally, the faster examination of asylum applications both at first instance and at Court, as well as the implementation of procedures that do not provide the right to remain and work has also contributed to employers’ reluctance to employ asylum seekers. The lack of any possibility for asylum seekers to transit to employment-related right to stay, and the diachronic firm political unwillingness to facilitate such flexibility between statuses for persons in the country means that the employment of an asylum seekers will in most cases be for a short period of time.
  • Lack of gender and cultural sensitivity in the recruitment procedure: Female asylum seekers often face difficulties accessing employment for reasons because of the jobs allowed, which are typically manual and require physical strength, as well as cultural barriers.[21] Many women have never worked before which requires gradual and facilitated transition to employment. Women from Muslim backgrounds wearing visible symbols of their religious identity (for example the hijab/niqab) report having faced difficulties accessing the labour market as they were considered, in some cases, unable to maintain employment due to their attire. There have also been reports on behalf of African candidates regarding the unwillingness of employers to hire them in front-desk positions.
  • Lack of appropriate information with respect to the 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, or the role of trade unions. Resorting to the Labour Relations Court is also expensive since there is no legal aid for that purpose, as well as time-consuming.
  • Problematic access to the services of the Labour Department: Existing system of the Labour Department requires efficient use of an online registration portal and direct communications prohibits asylum seekers from effectively using its job-seeking services.

Prior to the decision to refer all new asylum seekers to Pournara Centre, obstacles that were reported also included delays in the issuance of the 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, prevented persons to register at the Labour Department until they obtained an ARC number. This gap has been addressed due to the policy change on reception of newly arrived asylum seekers now referred to the Pournara Camp, where the registration process and issuance of ARC number is, routinely and timely completed prior to exiting the Centre.

When asylum seekers leave the Pournara Camp, they must declare an address. According to article 8 of the Refugee Law, in case they decide to change address, they need to inform the competent authority (asylum service and immigration departments). Although not specified in the Law, the Immigration department requires the submission of a stamped rental agreement by asylum seekers in order to register their new address. Taking into consideration that asylum seekers often live with friends and relatives without a rent agreement due to the very high cost of rent, it is very difficult to change their address through this procedure. This situation affects the registration at the district labour offices as they require to change first their address at the immigration offices before they proceed with the labour office registration. Inevitably this affects the access to SWS.

Lastly, asylum seekers face issues to access food delivery jobs, for which a driver’s licence is needed. In September 2020, the Department of Transportation issued a Circular/Guidance note concerning the criteria and the procedures for obtaining or renewing a driving license in Cyprus.[22] The Circular established additional requirements for non-Cypriot citizens (including asylum seekers), which hindered their possibilities of obtaining or renewing driving licenses and, as a result, accessing one of the few allowed and most popular job sectors among asylum seekers, i.e., food delivery. The requirements are considered to be in violation of the Driving License Law,[23] that transposes the relevant article of the EU Directive on Driving Licences,[24] which requires that an applicant be residing in Cyprus at least 6 months. Moreover, for asylum seekers, the new requirements demand a valid residence permit whereas asylum seekers only receive the Confirmation of Submission of an Asylum Application, which acts as a valid residence permit and is accepted by all State agencies, such as the Labour Department, public hospitals, and Welfare Social Services etc. This includes the date of submission therefore verifying the requirement for a 6 month stay in the country.

Following interventions by NGOs, UNHCR, and employers, the issue was brought for discussion before the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament in February 2021, in view of the discriminatory policy and violation of the Law and EU Directive. During the discussion, the Department of Transportation agreed to review the criteria. In May 2021, a new circular was issued,[25] but it did not provide any further clarifications on the main problematic point, i.e., the fact that for asylum seekers, their Confirmation of Submission of an Asylum Application acts as a valid residence permit. The issue was brought up by the main opposition party before the Parliamentary Committee for Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. To date however, no decision on the matter has been reached.[26] At the same time, a bill, reviewing driving test procedure, the categories and validity of driving licenses, safety in work and other relevant issues is under drafting.[27]



[1] Article 9Θ(2)(a)-(b) Refugee Law.

[2] Ministerial Decision 308/2018, pursuant to Article 9Θ(1)(b) of the Refugee Law; available at:

[3] Ministerial Decision 312/2023, pursuant to art. 9Θ(1)(b) of the Refugee Law available in Greek, at:

[4] Ministerial Decree 413/2021, pursuant to Article 9Θ(2)(α) και (β) of the Refugee Law, available in Greek at:

[5] Ministerial Decision 312/2023, pursuant to art. 9Θ(1)(b) of the  Refugee Law available in Greek, at:

[6] Economy Today, Article by Mr. Michalis Antoniou, Director General of Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation, February 2024, available in Greek at:  

[7] Economy Today, Interview of Mr. Filokypros Roussounides, Director General of Cyprus Hotel Association, February 2024, available in Greek at:

[8] Information provided by Caritas Cyprus and Cyprus Refugee Council.

[9] Ministerial Decree 413/2021, pursuant to Article 9Θ(2)(α) και (β) of the Refugee Law, available in Greek at:

[10] Ministerial Decision 312/2023, pursuant to art. 9Θ(1)(b) of the Refugee Law available in Greek, at:

[11] Economy Today, Article by mr. Michalis Antoniou, Director General of Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation, February 2024, available in Greek at:

[12] Information provided by Caritas Cyprus and Cyprus Refugee Council.

[13] MLSWI, Annual Report 2021, March 2022, available in Greek at:

[14] MLSWI, Annual Report 2022, February 2023, available in Greek at:

[15] Cyprus Official Bulletin, Διάταγμα για τον Περί Κατωτάτου Ορίου Μισθών Νόμο, 20 December 2023, available in Greek at:

[16] Cyprus Official Bulletin, Διάταγμα για τον Περί Κατωτάτου Ορίου Μισθών Νόμο, 20 December 2023, available in Greek at:  

[17] Reporter, Κλείδωσε στα 940 ευρώ ο Εθνικός Κατώτατος ΜισθόςΠοιοι εξαιρούνται, 31 August 2022, available in Greek at:; Philenews, Τετραψήφιος ο κατώτατος μισθός και με διάταγμα, 22 September 2023, available in Greek at:

[18] Public Employment Service, online platform, available at:

[19] Ministerial Decree 228/2019 pursuant to Article 9Θ(2)(α) of the Refugee Law, available in Greek at:

[20] Στρατηγική για την απασχόληση αλλοδαπού εργτικού δυναμικού 2022, available in Greek at:

[21] See also; Ombudsman, Report on access of female asylum seekers to employment and social welfare, 1799/2016, 11 November 2016, available in Greek at:  

[22] Circular/Guidance Note αρ.32/2020, Άδειες οδήγησης – Απαιτήσεις για άδεια παραμονής και τεκμήριο για έξι μήνες παραμονής, 9 September 2020, available in Greek at:

[23] Article 5, Driving License Law, available in Greek at:

[24] Article 12. EU Directive 2006/126 on Driving Licenses (Recast), “For the purpose of this Directive, ‘normal residence’ means the place where a person usually lives, that is for at least 185 days in each calendar year, because of personal and occupational ties, or, in the case of a person with no occupational ties, because of personal ties which show close links between that person and the place where he is living”.

[25] Circular/Guidance Note αρ. 9/2021, Άδειες οδήγησης – Απαιτήσεις για άδεια παραμονής και αποδεικτικού εξάμηνη διαμονή στη Δημοκρατία, 12 May 2021, available in Greek at:

[26] Αρ. Θέματος 65. Το εργασιακό καθεστώς των διανομέων (delivery) στην εστίαση και στις ψηφιακές πλατφόρμες διανομής προϊόντων, available at:

[27] Ο περί Άδειας Οδήγησης (Τροποποιητικός) Νόμος του 2022. (Αρ. Φακ., available at

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