Conditions in reception facilities


Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 11/04/23


Cyprus Refugee Council Visit Website

First Reception Centre, Pournara

The Emergency Reception Centre (Pournara) was converted into a First Reception Centre. In 2019, the Centre underwent construction to upgrade the existing infrastructure by replacing tents with prefabricated constructions. During this time, the Centre continued to be used as the construction was carried out on one section at a time.[1] According to EASO, progress in 2019 was slower than expected due to delays in the much-needed renovation works and overall coordination challenges.[2]

From 2020 onwards, asylum seekers who have arrived in the country in an irregular manner are referred to the Centre. The services provided in the Centre include identification, registration, and lodging of asylum applications as well as medical screenings and vulnerability assessments. The medical test includes tuberculosis screening (Mantoux test), HIV, and Hepatitis. From late 2022 residents can also submit their application for MRC in the community.

The nominal capacity of the Centre is 1,000 persons. Since 2020, however, it has largely surpassed its capacity, which has severely impacted the general living conditions. At the beginning of 2022 the number was just over 3,000 persons, however from mid-year onwards the number dropped to under 2000. Furthermore, there are reports of an unknown number of persons residing in Pournara irregularly, who returned to the Centre after they had exited as they were unable to secure accommodation in the community. In late 2021, based on recommendations from UNHCR, a pre-admission section equipped with chemical toilets was created to accommodate people waiting to be let into the Centre for registration, which led to a significant reduction in persons waiting outside the Centre. In 2022, it was reported that about 40-50 persons arrive daily at the Centre who are not admitted for registration and return the next days until access in given.[3]

Residents are hosted in confined areas, where they are accommodated in prefabricated housing units, tents, and refugee house units, provided by UNHCR to replace tents with more appropriate solutions. Around 500 asylum-seekers reside in prefabricated shelters with access to electricity and heating, while others are accommodated in either tents or semi-hard plastic structures without access to electricity and adequate hygiene facilities. Asylum seekers are permitted to exit their respective residential section only upon being called for an interview by the various governmental and other agencies working in the camp.[4]

Throughout 2022 there were no more available spaces in the housing units or tents, and residents were instructed to sleep wherever they could; persons reported that they sleep two to a bed, on the floor or even in the playground. Furthermore, in 2022 incidents of alleged sexual harassment and incidents of rape were reported by individuals accommodated in Pournara.[5]

Pournara includes a safe zone intended to accommodate UASC, single women, and families. According to the EUAA operating plan for 2021, a “Safe Zone”, ie a specific area where persons with specific needs and vulnerable persons should be assigned, in Pournara was expected to become operational in 2021. The “Safe Zone” did initiate operations and vulnerable persons were housed in this area; however, reports received throughout 2021 indicated that many unaccompanied children were accommodated outside of the ‘Safe Zone’ in tents or prefabricated housing units, often with non-related adults. Furthermore, the ‘Safe Zone’ was not properly supervised or monitored throughout the day and night. During 2021, a number of incidents of alleged sexual harassment were reported by individuals accommodated in Pournara, and in some cases in the Safe Zone.

Throughout 2021, reception places in the safe zone were allocated as follows; capacity for 132 boys (22 rooms x 6 per room; 3 bunk beds); capacity for 60 girls (10 rooms x 6 per room; 3 bunk beds per room) and capacity for 108 women (18 rooms x 6 per room; 3 bunk beds per room). Due to overcrowding, numerous children stated having had to share a bed with another child, or even having been placed to sleep on blankets on the floor.

In early 2022, 30 unaccompanied children staged a protest due to the conditions in Pournara. The Commissioner for the Right’s for the Child issued a report, reiterating the responsibility of the state under human rights law to ensure food, protection as well as acceptable health and hygiene conditions for children at the Pournara reception centre. According to the Commissioner, the children are left with one bottle of water each, that “normally has to last the entire day”. Further, she described the hygienic conditions as “appalling,” and noted that “around 15 people sleep in each room, usually sharing beds, resulting in children often ending up sleeping on the floor. On top of that, the roughly 300 children housed at the centre are forced to share two toilets and a single shower room”.[6]

The intervention of the Commissioner led to a brief visit by the President of the Republic on 14 March 2022, during which he promised to ensure that “more humane” conditions would be granted in the future, but also pointed out that the reception system’s “deficiencies” are to be attributed to the high amount of new arrivals, and that the problem will be “dealt with accordingly”. According to President Anastasiades, asylum seekers represent nearly 5% of the population. Cyprus has the highest number of asylum applications per capita of the 27 EU member states. Further, on the same day the Interior minister Nicos Nouris announced that 92 of the 356 children at Pournara had been relocated to hotels and that alternative accommodation for an additional 150 children was being identified. According to Nouris, the overcrowding at Pournara will be alleviated once transfers to a recently constructed reception centre south of Nicosia begins, Indicating Limnes Centre.

An extension of the ‘Safe Zone’ was initially expected to be completed in 2021, however it became operational in mid-2022. According to EUAA, ‘in June 2022, the construction of the new safe zone for vulnerable persons and unaccompanied minors at the First Reception Centre ‘Pournara’ was completed, increasing the Centre’s capacity. The pre-fabricated houses for the safe zone were donated by EUAA’. [7]

Furthermore, the EUAA operating plan for 2022-2024 states that the EUAA will support the operationalisation of the Safe Zone in Pournara and in drafting and implementing standardised procedures and workflows on vulnerability/special needs identification, assessment and referral, in line with quality standards and legal framework. This will also include support on unaccompanied minor identification, age-assessment and take-charge procedures.[8]

With the completion of the extension to the Safe Zone, it is now separated into 4 zones, A, B, C and D. Safe Zones A & B are the newly established areas, with a capacity to accommodate 64 persons, and are restricted to UASC girls (Zone B) and vulnerable women (Zone A).  Regarding infrastructure there are a total of 20 containers in the New Safe Zone; 4 are reserved for offices and 16 for accommodation of residents. Each container includes 4 beds. There are a total of 9 showers and 9 toilets. The staff allocated to Zones A & B include 1 coordinator responsible for the overall coordination including admissions; 1 social worker from SWS who is responsible for adults and is present on Mon, Wed, Fri; 1 staff from Codeca – responsible for technical issues and material needs; 1 guardian from SWS, who is not present constantly and accompanies UASC to interviews; 3 EUAA staff, 2 vulnerability experts and 1 for information provision and 1 security guard who monitors the entry into the area.[9]

Safe Zones C & D are in the area of the former Safe Zone prior to the extension. Safe Zone C accommodates UASC boys and has a total capacity to accommodate 162 persons.  Regarding infrastructure there are 17 rooms with an average of 9 UASC per room and there are 2 toilets and 1 shower. Approximately 50 boys sleep on mattresses on the floor. Safe Zone D also accommodates UASC girls and women and has a total capacity of 194 persons. This Zone usually hosts single women whereas Zone A hosts mostly highly vulnerable women. Regarding infrastructure, there are 26 rooms with 8 persons per room and 1 out of 4 women / girls sleep on a mattress on the floor.[10]

Regarding the admission procedure of vulnerable persons into the Safe Zone; the Coordinator of the Safe Zone receives information on vulnerable cases from the EUAA Coordinator for vulnerability assessments on a daily basis and screens and selects the persons that will be accommodated in the Safe Zone. However, there are instances where a person may be admitted into the Safe Zone when vulnerabilities are identified prior to the vulnerability assessment. Overall men are not permitted to stay in the Safe Zone, including vulnerable men and members of LGBTIQ+ groups.

Families can be accommodated in the Safe Zone, however in most case they will be accommodated in the main section of the Centre, as men, including fathers with children are not allowed to stay in the Safe Zone and the families choose not to be separated. However, single mothers with children who have significant vulnerabilities may be accommodated in Zone A of the Safe Zone.

The main issue with regards to UASC accommodated in the Safe Zone is their prolonged stay in Pournara which in most cases is longer than 3 months.

In early 2023 the numbers in Pournara were reduced in comparison to 2022, however this is mostly attributed to a reduction in the numbers of arrivals during this period, which are expected to rise again in Spring. Furthermore, there were limited transfers to the Centre in Limnes which in any case is expected to close due to the renovations. Furthermore there and there are approximately 200 UASC accommodated in Pournara.[11]

Asylum seekers’ freedom of movement is restricted while staying in Pournara (see Freedom of Movement). The requirement to present a valid address in order to exit Pournara causes important difficulties, as identifying accommodation is extremely difficult unless they are already in contact with persons in the community. Many are confined in the Centre for disproportionately long periods of time, as they face more difficulties in obtaining such a document. This policy was originally justified by the authorities as part of the measures to address the increase in migrant flows as well as to limit the spread of COVID-19. Regardless, it has led to severe overcrowding, since no adequate infrastructure was in place to host high numbers of newly arrived asylum seekers. In many cases, the duration of stay reached 5 months and considering that persons had complete restriction of movement outside of the Centre, this has become a de facto detention.

Throughout 2021, the situation led to frequent protests in the Centre by asylum seekers, most times peaceful, but at times clashes between residents broke out or damage was caused. During one of these protests, protesters broke the gates of the Centre and walked out in demonstration. Nevertheless, they all decided to return in the Centre after negotiations were made with the authorities and due to concerns it will affect their asylum applications.[12] In late 2021, MPs from the Human Rights Committee of the Parliament carried out a visit to Pournara and stated having been left appalled by its conditions.[13] In early 2022, another serious clash broke out among residents, leading to serious injuries and damages.[14] Residents from neighboring villages have repeatedly voiced their discontent over the impact the Centre has over the area, specifically with regards to littering, trespassing and security concerns, and staged a protest outside Parliament in July 2022. Community leaders have welcomed government plans of reinforced fencing around the Centre [15] but also demand the complete closure or relocation of the Centre.[16]

The situation has also raised concerns among UNHCR[17] and the EU Commission.[18]

In February and December 2021, two Dutch Courts allowed asylum applicants whose first asylum country was Cyprus to be included in the Dutch asylum procedure because they would not have adequate reception conditions and the alternative of returning to Cyprus entailed the risk of being subjected to degrading or inhumane treatment due to bad reception conditions. Both decisions also referred to Pournara’s substandard conditions, whereas the first decision specifically mentioned that the information submitted by the plaintiff gives an impression that the emergency shelter in Pournara has become a closed camp, where the reception conditions are very bad and large riots have broken out.[19]

Furthermore, in early 2021, in a letter addressed to the Minister of Interior of Cyprus, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović raised her concerns on the conditions in Pournara and called on ‘the Cypriot authorities to bring the conditions in reception facilities for asylum seekers and migrants in line with applicable human rights standards and ensure that they enjoy effective access to all necessary services. With particular reference to restrictions on freedom of movement which are applied as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic to the residents of migrant reception facilities, the Commissioner recalls that rather than preventing the spread of the virus, deprivation of liberty risks endangering the health of both staff and asylum seekers and migrants, as these facilities provide poor opportunities for social distancing and other protection measures. She therefore urges the Cypriot authorities to review the situation of the residents of all reception centres, starting with the most vulnerable. She also emphasises that since immigration detention of children, whether unaccompanied or with their families, is never in their best interest, they should be released immediately.’[20]

In respect of COVID-19 measures, residents of Pournara and Kofinou Centres have been given access to the national COVID-19 Vaccination Plan.

Regarding access to the Centre for NGOs, there is limited access and only upon approval [by the Asylum Service. In most cases access is only provided to NGOs that are providing services at the Center.


Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers, Kofinou

The main reception centre is located in the area of Kofinou in Larnaca District and began operating in 2014 with a nominal capacity of approximately 400 people. The Reception Centre is located in a remote area (roughly 25km from the nearest city, Larnaca), surrounded by dry fields and sparse vegetation. It is near a village with a population of approximately 1,300 people. There are bus routes connecting the reception centre with cities either directly in the case of Larnaca or through regional bus stations from where connecting transport can be used to reach other destinations. An extension of the Centre was announced in August 2022 and since October 2022 works have been underway. For this reason, the Centre has recently been operating at a lower capacity and the actual number of residents stands at approximately 210 people at the time of this report. The redevelopment will increase the capacity of the Centre to 700 people and is expected to be completed within the first half of 2023.

In May 2018 the Asylum Service decided to exclusively refer families and single women to Kofinou.[21] This decision did not affect single men already residing in the centre who were still able to remain in the facility. During 2020, admissions of single men from Syria did take place and the trend continued in 2021, mainly with persons from Somalia. As of 2022, a growing number of people from Congo has also been noted. Due to renovation works, residents have all been moved to a designated area of the camps that remains accessible, meaning that families and single men share the same area. This triggered some complaints from residents in the beginning but as the measures are temporary there is tolerance of the situation.

The Asylum Service is responsible for the overall operation and financial management of the Kofinou reception centre. The daily management of the centre has been assigned to a private company while some services such as catering and security are provided by contractors.

Kofinou Reception Centre consists of containers (mobile/temporary structures), with rooms designated to accommodate two to four persons depending on their size. There have been reports of more than four members of a family having to reside in one room, but not on a regular basis. Families do not share their rooms, while single persons do. Single men and single women use separate toilets/bathrooms. Families are placed in containers with two rooms (one for each family) where a common en-suite bathroom/toilet is shared. In the case of a family with many members, both rooms (i.e., the whole container) can be allocated.

Residents of the reception receive a monthly stipend of €100 for the head of the family and to €50 for every other family member.

Three meals are provided per day and special dietary arrangements are typically accommodated. Complaints regarding quality, quantity and variety of the food were still observed and residents continue to request the option to prepare their own food, in suitable spaces.[22] Pork is not served in the Centre, although Muslim residents from time to time have expressed to CyRC their mistrust on whether there is any trace of pork in the food they are served.[23] Currently, six common kitchen areas and equipment are available to the residents.

According to reports of residents to the Cyprus Refugee Council, the cleaning of shared toilets/bathrooms is adequate. Families must clean their own toilets. Complaints of not having enough hot water throughout the day are rare. During the breakout of the pandemic, disruptions were noticed in relation to cleaning/maintenance staff engagement, which subsequently resulted in an increased number of complaints regarding common spaces, cleaning, and repairs of infrastructure. The situation returned to normal during 2021. Reports of insects and snakes appearing on the premises, due to the location of the Centre, continue.[24]

Regarding access to the Centre for NGOs, there is limited access and only upon approval by the Asylum Service, however access is granted in most cases. Volunteers were unable to visit the Centre in 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions but during this time transfer of goods from the community to the Centre for dissemination took place and initiatives began to resume in 2021. A new structure to host residents and volunteers in order to carry out activities, operating as an integration hub, was developed and operated during 2021. This space was affected by the renovations in 2022 and is now temporarily closed. Activities are currently taking place in a container donated by the Red Cross and EUAA has also made a section of their container available to use to this end. Throughout 2022, 9 organisations have had regular access to the Centre, providing medical supplies, psychosocial support, language classes, upskilling workshops and activities specifically aimed at children including psychological therapy, occupational therapy, arts and sports classes, and educational support for easier integration.

Prior to the pandemic, residents were allowed to go out when they wished, provided that they would not leave the centre for prolonged periods of time. This was not the case during the pandemic period as residents were not permitted exit unless for very urgent matters, such as health care reasons or meetings related to their asylum claims. The restriction also included attending religious services outside the Centre. Movement from and to the Centre resumed in 2021. Residents are not allowed to leave the premises for more than 48 hours but in some instances this can be extended by notifying the social worker.

Children in the Centre attend primary and high school in the community and a designated bus service is provided. No racist or discriminatory incidents were recorded and the integration of minors in schools is reported, overall, as satisfactory by residents. There has been a positive collaboration between the schools and the Centre.

During 2020, schools suspended operations for prolonged periods of time due to COVID-19 measures. In November to mid-December 2020, due to restrictions imposed on Centres for refugees and migrants, children from Kofinou were restricted from attending school physically, while all other children in the country were able to attend school. In 2021, children were able to physically attend school again. During periods where physical attendance was not allowed, children in the Centre were supported to follow online classes or to access other support provided by the schools and the Centre, using equipment provided by UNHCR.

In respect of COVID-19 related measures, where residents were found to be positive, they were transferred to hotels contracted by the authorities for quarantine purposes. Testing for COVID-19 was previously carried out on the spot for residents and personnel every Friday. This has now come to an end but the medical unit in the Centre continues to carry out COVID-19 tests upon demand for those who need. In regard to COVID-19 vaccinations, most residents have received at least two shots and the administration of the third dose has also been carried out in 2022.


Residing in the Community

With the total number of asylum seekers reaching 30,000 and capacity of Reception Centres limited to around 2,500 persons, most asylum seekers reside in the community in private houses/flats, which they are required to secure on their own.

As the main Reception Centre, Kofinou is at maximum capacity at almost all times, the SWS bears the responsibility of processing applications and addressing asylum seekers’ needs, including the allocation of an allowance to cover housing expenses. The asylum seeker is expected to find accommodation and provide all necessary documentation as part of this process.

During 2019, Social Welfare Services engaged in identifying private housing for the homeless beneficiaries (or those at risk of becoming homeless), due to the very high number of persons in that situation. Housing arrangements mainly involved newly arrived families with minor dependants, in budget hotels and apartments/houses. Persons were usually placed there for short periods of time and the cost of the hotel was deducted from the already low amount allocated for covering their reception conditions.

In 2020, following the announcement of stringent measures to tackle migration flows and, soon after, the implementation of measures related to COVID-19, asylum seekers hosted in hotels were told to evacuate. A relevant ministerial order in relation to COVID-19 required all hotels to close down. A number of those asylum seekers (approximately 860 persons) were moved into Kofinou Reception Centre as well as to Pournara First Reception Centre. Very few exceptions were made for vulnerable persons, and these were only made following interventions of NGOs. A number of people did not agree to move to Pournara and were deprived of reception conditions for prolonged periods of time.[25]

In 2021, following the identification of vulnerable persons in Pournara and in some cases based on interventions of NGOs suggesting that particular individuals should not reside in Pouranra, a small number of placements into private housing were carried out by the SWS. Towards the end of 2021, SWS started sending letters to people benefiting from those placements, setting a 3-month limit after the expiration of which they should leave. In some cases extensions where given and persons were allowed to remain for an additional 3 months but after that people were obliged to secure accommodation.[26]

Currently the SWS only assist selected vulnerable persons with finding shelter in the community. For the vast majority of other asylum seekers, housing continues to be a major issue, and they often found themselves in destitution, facing increased risk of homelessness, appalling living conditions and exploitation by agents, landlords and other persons in the community.

Practical difficulties in obtaining certain requirements such as a rental agreement, a deposit, and/or advance payments, which although foreseen in the 2022 Ministerial orders, they are still not covered by Social Services, continue to generate issues in relation to securing shelter for applicants. Reports of landlords being unwilling to provide housing to asylum seekers are also alarming. The rapid rise in demand for housing in urban areas has led to a sharp increase in rent prices, making the gap between the allocated resources and rent prices even greater.

In addition, and as stated in the application form for reception conditions, a maximum amount is allocated to each house occupied by asylum seeking tenants regardless of the number of tenants, the relationship between them, and the number of individual contracts they may have with the owner in the case of shared accommodation. The particular provision on a maximum amount was sporadically implemented in the past, but since 2020 it is uniformly applied in all cases, increasing the risk of destitution and homelessness.

The difficulties in securing shelter in the community have led to an increase in the use of run-down or derelict buildings. These are apartment buildings or former hotel apartments in very bad conditions, often without running water, with severe structural, electrical and sewage issues etc. Due to their decaying conditions, the owners are generally unable to rent them to nationals, and instead rent them to asylum seekers. Reports of owners receiving rent allowance for such properties from the SWS were reported in 2021 and 2022. Asylum seekers residing in such buildings include vulnerable persons such as single mothers with young children, pregnant women, violence/torture victims, disabled persons etc. The local authorities in some cases have taken legal action against the owners but due to lack of housing alternatives moving persons from such buildings has proven extremely difficult.[27]

Contextually to the announcement of measures addressing migrant flows in early 2020, the Ministry of Interior declared: ‘In co-operation with the Local Authorities, an investigation is launched into the illegal residence of immigrants in inappropriate premises with the simultaneous prosecution of owners who exploit them by receiving state housing allowances that applicants receive.’ [28] In practice, local authorities were requested to investigate such residences and visits were carried out, however no action was taken. Currently such premises continue to be in use


Limnes Accommodation Centre 

The Centre at Limnes began to operate in November 2021 with small groups of refused asylum applicants being transferred there from Pournara. However, in August 2022, it was announced that Cyprus is to receive €72m in funds from the European Commission, for projects to support the reception, asylum and return systems in Cyprus, which includes €67m for the enhancement of the capacity at Limnes.[29] The Centre is expected to cease operations by June 2023 and is expected to remain closed for 2 years while construction takes place.[30]

Throughout 2022, all persons transferred to Limnes, mainly from Pakistan and Bangladesh, had been issued with negative asylum decisions and a decision determining their place of residence as Limnes, with a proviso that should they decide to leave Limnes they would have no access to welfare assistance. The trend has been for persons to voluntarily leave the Centre and reside in the community, without access to material reception conditions, mainly to access employment opportunities in the community.

Those who select to reside at the Centre are accommodated in the open sections of the Centre and are allowed to move enter and exit between 9am and 9pm, however exceptions are made in relation to PoCs who might need to exit the Centre at different times, either for medical or employment reasons. Furthermore, they are provided with a stipulated cash allowance of €100, which is allocated at the end of each month.

The Centre also appears to have been used at times on ad-hoc basis to address overcrowding at Pournara. For example, on 21 December 2021, 585 asylum seekers were transferred from Pournara to Limnes, having been close contacts to COVID-19 cases. Additional asylum seekers who were positive to COVID-19 were also transferred to Limnes the following days/weeks. These persons are not considered to be residents of the Centre and, although they are asylum seekers, they do not have freedom of movement and are accommodated in the closed sections of the Centre.  All the asylum seekers who were transferred to Limnes for Covid-related reasons have either been released in the community or transferred back to Pournara to conclude their medical tests. The average duration of stay in the closed sections of the Centre was 40 days.

Regarding the setup, the Centre consists of three distinct sections:

  • the Safe Zone, which consists of three prefabricated houses;
  • Sections C and D of the Centre which consist of a total of 69 RHUs;[31] and
  • Sections A and B of the Centre which consist of a total of 60 RHUs.

There is no physical separation between sections C and D, or sections A and B. As such, they are considered to form two distinct sections: (i) sections A&B; and (ii) sections C&D.

Given its recent establishment, as well as the lack of access to the Centre there are no reports on the conditions in the Centre. However, there are indications that the general conditions are extremely poor, especially looking at the quality of the housing units purposed for very temporary stay and the fact that only communal areas (e.g. the food distribution area) dispose of electricity and heating provisions. Moreover, the decision to close and restructure the Centre so soon after it began operating is reportedly due to the substandard conditions.[32]

In early 2023, there were app. 150 persons at Limnes, all in the open section of the Centre of which the majority had received a first instance rejection to their asylum application.

Regarding access to the Centre by NGOs, there is no access provided even though repeated requests have been made.[33]


Staff and activities

In May 2018, following the relevant decision of the Council of Ministers in March 2018, a director was appointed by the Ministry of Interior for the first time in Kofinou. There is also an assistant director appointed and both placements are stationed onsite.

In 2022, staff in the Centre included: an NGO providing management services/social support in the Centre with 3 social workers and 6 administrators; 1 social worker from SWS (since October 2020); and support from EUAA with 1 induction community link officer, 4 social workers, (with 1 being specialised in vulnerable persons), 5 interpreters (Arabic, Somali, French, Farsi, Kurmanji, Badini, Turkish, Lingala), and onefloor manager (responsible for the EUAA staff). Other staff members in the centre include 3 cleaners, 3 maintenance technicians, and 24/7 security officers.

A development, following demands of the residents and as foreseen in the Refugee Law, was the establishment of the “Committee of Resident’s Representatives”.[34] The Committee carried out weekly meetings with the Director of the Centre, and a Code was signed between the residents and the Centre defining roles and recording procedures. Currently, the committee, though not officially, is inactive due to some of its active members having exited the Centre.

In relation to Health Services provided, there are currently two nurses (one of which a mental health nurse) offering services Monday-Friday until 1pm. A pathologist and a psychologist, both appointed by the Ministry of Health, visit the Centre twice a week.

Educational/leisure activities in the Centre are organised and implemented mainly by non-governmental actors, such as NGOs, voluntary organisations, individual volunteers, and education institutions etc. Activities offered throughout the year included labour-related trainings, language courses, computer lessons, cultural, art/handcrafting, school support classes, occupational therapy sessions, and gymnastic classes as well as various other recreational activities for adults and minors. Most of the activities, which were postponed during the lockdowns and due to COVID-19 restrictions, resumed during 2021, or are in the process of resuming.

Other facilities include two open-space playgrounds and gym equipment, a playroom, a library, and a computer room. There is Wi-Fi coverage in the centre however at times, complaints are made regarding broadband speed/coverage. The computer room, the playroom, and the library remain locked, unless there is a specific activity taking place. These facilities were temporarily closed as of December 2022 due to renovation works but they are expected to reopen in 2023 along with the addition of a new playground funded by a European NGO.


Duration of stay

There is no specific duration of stay for asylum seekers in the reception centre. As long as the claimant of material reception conditions retains the status of an asylum seeker, he or she may be referred or obliged to stay in the centre. Upon the issuance of a final negative decision, the person is usually notified to make necessary arrangements to depart from Cyprus at once. In that case, people are allowed to remain in the reception centre until their removal. There are no reports of forced eviction.

In light of the centre reaching its maximum capacity and as a way to free up resources, the Asylum Service announced that residents who complete six months of residence in the centre would be given the possibility to apply for reception conditions in the community and to move out upon being granted support from the Social Welfare Services. However, due to the unsatisfactory levels of support provided to welfare recipients, residents were reluctant to move into the community.

A comprehensive procedure to accommodate the transition of persons receiving International Protection to the community is yet to be implemented. The overall slowdown of the economy due to the pandemic, and, currently, the high rent prices and the various difficulties in accessing jobs, the transition of Persons with International Protection from the Centre in the community remains a challenging process.




[1] Information provided by Asylum Service.

[2] EASO Operating Plan 2020, available at:

[3] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[4] UNHCR, Cyprus- Reception Capacity, available at:

[5] Phileleftheros, ‘A young rape victim who lives in Pournara’ available at:; Phileleftheros, ‘ She reported gang-raping her in Pournara’ available at:

[6] Kathimerini, ‘Furious Michaelidou on minors in Pournara – They sleep on the floor, a piece of bread for breakfast’ available at: 

[7] European Migration Network, Quarterly report April-June 2022:

[8] EASO Operating Pan 2022-2024, available at:

[9] Based on information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Based on information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council

[12] Alpha News, ‘Incidents of stone throwing and fires in Pournara’, available in Greek at

[13] Phileleftheros,‘MPs in Pournara: “12 children stacked in containers”’ available at:; Phileleftheros, ‘These are not images that honor us in “Pournara”, available at:; Cyprus Mail, ‘Pournara Camp a Ticking Bomb’ available at:

[14] Phileleftheros, ‘Pournara, a boiling cauldron – Clashes and stabbings’, available at:; Cyprus Mail, ‘Three injured during fight at Pournara’ available at:

[15] Cyprus Mail,’Reinforced fencing at Pournara centre welcomed by local community’ available at:

[16] Cyprus Mail, ‘Kokkinotrimithia leader calls for closure of Pournara” available at:

[17] Kathimerini, ‘UNHCR: Need to decongest Pournara’, 13 January 2021, available in Greek at

[18] Kathimerini, ‘Brussels concerned about Pournara’, 16 February 2021, available in Greek at

[19] Court of the Hague, case NL21.2036, available at:; Court of the Hague, NL21.17448 en NL.1745, available at:

[20] Council of Europe, Commissioner of Human Rights, Letter to the Minister of Interior of Cyprus Available at:

[21] Βελτιώθηκε το Κέντρο Κοφίνου, see at:

[22] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[23] According to reports to CyRC

[24] According to reports to CyRC.

[25] Information provided by Caritas, Cyprus and Cyprus Refugee Council.

[26] Information provided by Caritas, Cyprus and Cyprus Refugee Council.

[27] Phileleftheros, ‘Living in sewage and searching for food in garbage’ available at:

[28] Ministry of Interior, Λήψη μέτρων για την ολιστική αντιμετώπιση των μεταναστευτικών ροών, 12 March 2020, available in Greek at:

[29] Ministry of Transport, Communications and Works, Announcment: Tender Announcement for the Construction of a “LIMNES” Hospitality Center for International Protection Applicants and a Pre-Departure Center for persons who will be repatriated to the Menogia area of Larnaca District, available at:; Cyprus Mail, ‘EU and Cyprus close to an agreement for support on migration’, available at:

[30] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[31] Refugee Housing Unit (RHU), available at:

[32] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[33] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council and based on requests submitted.

[34] Article 9IZ(2) 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