Conditions in reception facilities


Country Report: Conditions in reception facilities Last updated: 09/05/24


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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. Since 2020, asylum seekers who arrive 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 onwards, residents can also submit their application for material reception conditions for when they exit and reside in the community, however due to staffing and organisational issues, not all persons are given access to this procedure and persons still exit the centre without applying for MRC.

The nominal capacity of the Centre is 1,000 persons. From 2020 to mid-2022, it had largely surpassed its capacity, which severely impacted the general living conditions. At the beginning of 2022, the number was just over 3,000 persons, however from mid-2022 year onwards the number dropped to under 2000. Furthermore, there were 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.

During 2020 and 2021 access to Pournara was problematic.[1] In early 2022, it was reported that every day on average 40-50 persons were not admitted for registration, and were forced to keep returning every morning until given access.[2] In late 2022, the situation remained the same and, due to the high number of arrivals, it was decided to admit a maximum of 60 persons per day to keep the numbers of persons in the Centre under control.  As a result, approximately 40 persons were denied admission each day, leading to some persons entering the Centre irregularly in order to find shelter and others sleeping outdoors in front of the registration gate in the hopes of securing a position in the queue the following day. Several makeshift tents and shelters appear at times around the centre, mostly inhabited by persons awaiting registration. Persons with a passport or some form of identification document are systematically given access faster.

In 2023, the number of arrivals decreased mostly staying below 1000 residents, which led to a significant improvement in access to the Centre, with most persons having access upon arrival. However, there were still instances where persons who did not present passports were denied entry by the AIU for 2-3 days.[3]

Residents are hosted in confined areas, where they are accommodated in prefabricated housing units, tents, and refugee housing units, provided by UNHCR to replace tents with more appropriate solutions. In 2022 around 500 asylum-seekers were residing in prefabricated shelters with access to electricity and heating, while others were accommodated in either tents or semi-hard plastic structures without access to electricity and adequate hygiene facilities. 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.

In 2023, due to a decrease in numbers, the vast majority of residents are accommodated in prefabricated houses with access to electricity and beds, and there were no reports of the bad conditions reported in 2022. However, asylum seekers were typically 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. In 2023 there were no reports of sexual harassment/abuse, although some violent incidents were reported.

Screening and identification of vulnerable persons is carried in Pournara. In early 2023, the EUAA in collaboration with the Asylum Service finalised the SoPs for the identification of vulnerable persons in Pournara.  According to the new procedure, a flagging (screening) system has been introduced to prioritize individuals with vulnerabilities and persons who are flagged as vulnerable will then undergo a vulnerability assessment by the vulnerability assessment team (see section: Identification).

Pournara includes a safe zone intended to accommodate UASC, vulnerable women, and families. 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 Safe Zone is separated into 4 zones, A, B, C and D. Safe Zones A and B are the newly established areas, with a capacity to accommodate 88 persons, and are restricted to UASC girls (Zone A) and vulnerable women (Zone B).  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 6 beds. There is a total of 9 showers and 9 toilets. The staff allocated to Zones A and B include 1 coordinator responsible for the overall coordination, including admissions; 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.

In the past, there was a social worker placed in Safe Zones A and B, but was eventually moved outside the safe zones due to increased needs there, joining another social worker. When there is a need, vulnerable people from the safe zones are referred to those social workers.

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 90 persons. Regarding infrastructure there are 17 rooms with an average of 9 UASC per room and there are 2 toilets and 1 shower. Due to the high number of UASC boys, three containers from Safe Zone D were allocated to accommodate them. Safe Zone D accommodates families with small children, but male guardians (fathers) are not permitted to stay there; they are accommodated outside of the safe zone. 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.

In 2023, there were reports of some UASC who preferred to reside outside the safe zone with adults they knew to avoid conflicts emerging in the safe zone with other children accommodated there.

An ongoing issue in Pournara remains the prolonged stay of UASC in the Centre, which is always longer than other residents and the lack of access to education and activities for all children while in Pournara. 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”.[4]

The intervention of the Commissioner led to a brief visit by the then 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.[5] 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.[6]

During 2023, there were on average 150 UASC in Pournara and their stay was on average 80 days. There were no developments with regards to access to education or activities.[7]

Freedom of movement is restricted while staying in Pournara (see Freedom of Movement), and although the duration of stay has been reduced in 2023, in comparison to previous years to an average of 30-40 days for adults and 80 days for UASC, it is still much longer than the initially planned 72 hours. Moreover, there is no legal basis for the restriction of movement during this time leading to a situation of de facto detention.

Asylum Seekers may exit the Centre once all procedures have been concluded, however the authorities require them to present a valid address in the community. This requirement causes important difficulties, and often prevents exit for the most vulnerable persons including persons with disabilities and large families who have increased difficulties identifying private accommodation. Furthermore, it has led to exploitation by agents, landlords and other persons in the community, increased risk of homelessness, as persons often discover upon exiting that the accommodation is not available, and appalling living.

The confinement in Pournara often leads to unrest. In 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. 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.[8]

In early 2022, another serious clash broke out among residents, leading to serious injuries and damages. Residents from neighbouring villages repeatedly voiced their discontent over the impact the Centre has on 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, but also demand the complete closure or relocation of the Centre. [9]

In 2023, during a football match between residents, a fight broke out between persons of different ethnicity, leading to injuries of some participants and arrests by the police that intervened. At the time, the Minister of Interior stated that all those involved to be arrested and deported.[10] Persons were indeed arrested and detained, and their asylum applications examined speedily, however there were no reports of persons removed from the country without their asylum applications examined.[11]

Regarding access to the Centre, during 2023 an exterior fence was installed increasing the controlled area of the facility. Furthermore, monitoring of access of staff and visitors in the Centre became much stricter. There are visiting hours (daily, 12pm-4pm) and in regards to access of NGOs, there is limited access and only upon approval by the Asylum Service. In most cases access and especially for legal advice access is not granted.


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 279 people at the time of this report. The redevelopment will increase the capacity of the Centre to approximately 600 people and is expected to be completed within 2024.

The Centre hosts families, single women and single men, and all residents have direct access to all sections. The Centre does not provide facilities for vulnerable persons, and vulnerable persons will only be admitted by way of exception.

The Asylum Service is responsible for the overall operation and financial management of the Kofinou reception centre. The Director is appointed by the Ministry of Interior and is stationed onsite. The daily administration of the centre has been assigned to an NGO while some services such as catering and security are provided by contractors. Two policemen stationed as part of Limnes staff are also present in the area.

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.[12] 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.[13] 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. Reports of insects and snakes appearing on the premises, due to the location of the Centre, continue.[14]

Regarding access to the Centre for NGOs, there is limited access and only upon approval, however access is granted in most cases. A room is available for hosting residents and volunteers in order to carry out activities.

Residents are allowed to go out when they wish, providing that they do not leave the centre for prolonged periods of time. Residents are not allowed to leave the premises for more than 48 hours but in some instances this can be extended by notifying the Centre administrators.

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 Near-by schools have been able to accommodate the number of children residing in the centre and children’s enrolment in education is typically performed timely, At the time of publication reports indicated inability to accommodate newly arrived children through existing school arrangements and efforts to accommodate their enrolment were in progress.

In 2023, staff in the Centre included: an NGO providing administrative services/social support in the Centre with 4 social workers and 2 administrators; 1 social worker from SWS that visits the centre twice a week; support from EUAA with 1 staff member providing information to residents as well as 5 interpreters (Arabic, Somali, French, Farsi, Kurmanji, Badini, Turkish, Lingala); 10 interpreters provided by the Asylum Service are also present. Additional staff includes two UNHCR staff members, one providing integration support services to residents and one monitoring conditions and providing legal advice. Other staff members include 3 cleaners, 4 carers, 3 maintenance technicians, and 24/7 security officers.[15]

A development, following demands of the residents and as foreseen in the Refugee Law, was the establishment of the “Committee of Resident’s Representatives”.[16] 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. The committee, though not officially, was inactive due to some of its active members having exited the Centre, but procedures to resume operation have been recently initiated.

In relation to Health Services provided, there is currently one nurse at the Centre each day and one mental health nurse visiting the Centre twice a week, and one pathologist offering services three times a week.

Throughout 2023, a number of organisations have had regular access to the Centre, providing medical supplies, psychosocial support, Greek language classes, English language classes, upskilling workshops, dance classes, occupational therapy sessions to minors and adults, and activities specifically aimed at children including arts and sports classes.

Other facilities include two outdoor playgrounds, one outdoor gym, and a library. Works to build football fields inside the Centre were in progress at the time of reporting. There is Wi-Fi coverage in the centre, however at times, complaints are made regarding broadband speed/coverage. The library and the activities room are generally kept locked and are opened only when there is an activity taking place.

For the prevention of SGBV incidents residents are informed upon arrival by their social workers of the procedure to report any SGBV incidents, which is to directly report it to their social workers, who will then raise the matter with the Social Welfare Service. The SWS will then take appropriate actions depending on the severity of the incident.

Regarding the duration of stay in the reception centre, there is no specific time frame for asylum seekers. As long as the claimant of material reception conditions retains the status of an asylum seeker, they are eligible to reside in the centre. Upon the issuance of a final negative decision, the person is usually notified to make necessary arrangements to depart from Cyprus. Residents of Kofinou who have been rejected typically move to the Limnes section of the Centre and are allowed to remain until they depart from Cyprus. In 2023, efforts were made to remove persons that had received a final rejection, in some instances the police removed persons to detention. There were also evictions of persons due to violent behaviour.[17] For the latter, arrangements were made by Kofinou Centre in order for temporary shelter in hotels to be provided upon exiting the Centre.

Residents who are able to provide a residence address in the community, are allowed to leave the centre and move if they want and are allowed to claim MRC at the Social Welfare Services. Although a number of residents, mainly those from Syria who had sufficient social networks in the community, were able to move, the vast majority of residents are reluctant to do this due to the unsatisfactory levels of support that are provided, the high rent prices of private accommodation, and the unavailability of social networks.

Once a resident of the Centre receives a positive decision on their asylum application granting them international protection they are given two months’ notice in order to move out of Kofinou and into private accommodation in the community which they must find themselves. There is no procedure in place to accommodate the transition of persons into the community and there are no centres or shelters available for Beneficiaries of International Protection (see section: Housing). Furthermore, the high rent prices, obstacles in finding employment and delays in receiving State financial assistance means the transition of persons with International Protection from the Centre in the community remains a challenging process.


Residing in the Community

With the total number of asylum seekers in 2023 reaching over 25,000 and capacity of Reception Centres limited to around 1400 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. Asylum seekers are expected to find accommodation and provide all necessary documentation as part of this process.

The SWS only assists selected vulnerable persons with finding shelter in the community. For the vast majority of asylum seekers, housing continues to be a major issue, and they often find 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 and throughout 2023 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.

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’.[18] In practice, local authorities were requested to investigate such residences and some visits were carried out, however 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. 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, the general conditions were considered substandard and 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.[19]

The Centre ceased operations in July 2023 and was moved to a section in Kofinou Reception Centre while construction takes place, which is estimated to take 2 years.[20]

While operating in the original location in 2022 and early 2023, the majority of 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 was 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 selected to reside at the Centre were accommodated in the open sections of the Centre and were allowed to move enter and exit between 9am and 9pm, however exceptions are made in relation to persons who might need to exit the Centre at different times, either for medical or employment reasons. Furthermore, they were provided with a stipulated cash allowance of €100, which is allocated at the end of each month.

The Centre was also used at times on ad-hoc basis to address overcrowding at Pournara.

Regarding access to the Centre by NGOs, there was no access provided even though repeated requests have been made.[21]

In early 2023, there were approximately 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.

From mid 2023 until present, the Centre is operating in a section of Kofinou Reception Centre. The area allocated for Limnes hosts approximately 200 residents as well as a small number of residents of the Kofinou Center. Persons who are admitted to Limnes include:

  • Persons who receive a first-instance rejection through the accelerated procedure whilst at Pournara. They are given the choice to either remain at Limnes during their appeal procedure or to leave Limnes, thereby waiving their right to welfare benefits;
  • Persons who apply for the Assisted Voluntary Return Program, either from Pournara or from the community, provided that they do not have accommodation of their own; those who do can continue to reside at their accommodation until the return flight. These persons are expected to remain at Limnes until their return flight, at which point they are transferred directly to the airport;
  • Persons who are included in the EU Relocation Scheme. This may also include Kofinou residents as once they are pre-selected for relocation they are transferred from Kofinou to Limnes. Persons in the Relocation Scheme remain at Limnes throughout the clearance procedures and until their relocation flight, at which point they are transferred directly to the airport; and
  • A small number of exceptional cases, such as persons who are released from Pournara but who are unable to secure accommodation.

In early 2024 the majority of residents in Limnes were persons that have applied for the Assisted Voluntary Return Program.

Regarding conditions in Limnes these are considered to be generally up to standard. The section is separated into 3 zones. Men are always housed in a different zone separately from women. Each family, including single parent families, are provided with a separate container with one bathroom per two adjoining rooms. The zone that houses single men, does not have individual bathrooms; instead, there are shared bathrooms.

Regarding freedom of movement the same rules apply as with Limnes at the initial location and residents are allowed to enter and exit between 9am and 9pm. However exceptions are made in relation to persons who might need to exit the Centre at different times, either for medical or employment reasons. Persons who are transferred to Limnes after receiving a negative first instance decision at Pournara are provided with a stipulated cash allowance of €100, which is allocated at the end of each month, whereas other residents are not entitled to this allowance.[22]




[1] For detailed information see the 2021 and 2022 Updates of the AIDA Country Report on Cyprus, available at:

[2] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Kathimerini, Furious Michaelidou on minors in Pournara – They sleep on the floor, a piece of bread for breakfast, 9 March 2022, available at:   

[5] Knews, Anastasiades visits Pournara after reports of unsuitable conditions, 14 March 2022, available at:

[6] Associated Press, Cyprus president vows “more humane” migrant camp conditions, 14 March 2022, available at:

[7] UNHCR, Cyprus Reception factsheet, June 2023, available at:

[8] 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, 19 December 2021, available at:   

[9] Cyprus Mail, Kokkinotrimithia leader calls for closure of Pournara, 24 February 2023, available at:   

[10] Cyprus Mail, Migrants fighting at Pournara to be arrested and deported, minister says, 6 November 2023, available at:

[11] Information based on cases represented by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[12] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[13] According to reports to CyRC

[14] According to reports to CyRC.

[15] Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[16] Article 9IZ(2) Refugee Law.

[17] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council

[18] Dialogos, Λήψη μέτρων για την ολιστική αντιμετώπιση των μεταναστευτικών ροών, 12 March 2020, available in Greek at:

[19] 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, 26 January 2023, available in Greek at:; Cyprus Mail, EU and Cyprus close to an agreement for support on migration, 16 June 2022, available at:

[20] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

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

[22] Ibid.

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