Short overview of the reception system


Country Report: Short overview of the reception system Last updated: 09/05/24


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Asylum seekers in Cyprus have the right to access reception conditions during the administrative and judicial examination of their asylum applications. Access to reception conditions is not ensured during the judicial examination of decisions issued in the accelerated procedure; subsequent applications; decisions that determine the asylum application is unfounded or inadmissible; and decisions related to explicit or implicit withdrawal.

The Asylum Service, under the Ministry of Interior, is responsible for coordinating all other authorities on asylum issues, including related to reception. The Asylum Service is also responsible for the operation of reception and accommodation centres for asylum seekers.[1]  Although they may have a coordinating role, each right under reception conditions is provided for by the competent Ministry,[2] as a result four Ministries are involved, which often leads to fragmented and uncoordinated approach and planning.

Since 2019, all persons wishing to apply for asylum who entered the country in an irregular manner, are referred to the Pournara First Reception Centre for registration, lodging of asylum application, and medical and vulnerability screenings. Access to reception conditions is provided at the Centre for a stay of approximately 40 to 60 days. Upon exiting the Centre, asylum seekers have access to reception conditions in the community or in the Reception Centres (Kofinou, UASC shelters), whereas a limited number of persons are moved to the Reception/Pre-Removal Center, Limnes. For persons who arrived in a regular manner, they will have access to reception conditions upon concluding registration.

Living conditions in Kofinou are considered decent, whereas in recent years there has been criticism on the conditions in Pournara and Limnes which were evaluated as sub-standard. This led to the authorities taking action and with the support of EUAA, the conditions in Pournara have improved. In the case of Limnes, it has been closed to undergo a complete restructuring and a section of Kofinou Centre is being used temporarily to host persons that would have been accommodated in Limnes. Regarding shelters for UASC, conditions vary depending on the facility; at times, overcrowding has been an issue in some shelters. Furthermore, due to the increase in arrivals of UASC and lack of capacity to house them in the UASC shelters, hotels have been used as a temporary measure, however conditions in the hotels are not considered up to standard. The use of hotels continued in 2023.[3]

With the total number of asylum seekers reaching over 25,000 by the end of 2023, and capacity of Reception Centres limited to around 1400 persons, most asylum seekers reside in the community in private houses/apartments, which they are required to secure on their own. 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 provide all necessary documentation.

2023 continued to be an extremely challenging year for the country’s reception system. The ongoing absence of a comprehensive reception system combined with the stringent measures adopted by the authorities to address migration and refugee flows, along with the continued increase in arrivals had a severe impact on the ability of the reception system to address the needs of newly arrived persons, as well as of those already present in the country.[4]

Reception standards remain below adequate levels, exposing asylum seekers to the risk of homelessness and destitution. The majority of asylum seekers live in the community and are often extremely destitute. Centres are overcrowded and in need of structural renovation to reach acceptable sanitation and hygiene standards, as well as to provide safeguards against sexual and gender-based violence for both children and single women. The timely identification and response to the needs of vulnerable individuals, including children, both within reception facilities and in the community, requires improvement.

In 2023, there was a significant surge in violence against migrants in Cyprus, with incidents including pogrom-like demonstrations and violent attacks against racialized people, including migrants and refugees.[5] The main incidents took place in Chloraka a village at the outskirts of Paphos City and then Limassol where migrant-owned shops were destroyed and several people were attacked by mobs. There has also been a rise in attacks and reports of police profiling. Experts have blamed the increased mainstreaming of xenophobia in Cypriot politics and media, fuelled by the spread of disinformation and the mismanagement of the large number of people trying to reach Europe.[6]

The European Commission on Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in the latest report published on Cyprus in 2023, recommends that the authorities establish a comprehensive monitoring system for hate speech incidents, involving the police, the prosecution service, the courts, the equality body and relevant civil society organisations, especially those supporting refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants. Furthermore, ECRI recommends that the authorities step up their efforts in encouraging public figures, in particular high-level officials and religious leaders, to firmly and promptly condemn the use of racist and other forms of hate speech, use counter-speech and alternative speech, and promote intergroup understanding.[7]




[1] EASO, EASO Operating Plan, Cyprus 2022-2024, available at:

[2] Material Reception Conditions by the Social Welfare Services under the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare; Employment under the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance; Education under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports; Healthcare under the Ministry of Health.

[3] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[4] Information provided by Cyprus Refugee Council.

[5] ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 8 September 2023, Racist violence against migrants in Cyprus, available at:

Amnesty International, ‘Cyprus: Authorities must protect migrants and refugees from racist attacks’ available at:

[6] France 24, Cyprus migrants face wave of attacks as hostility brews, 12 September 2023, available at:

[7] European Commission on Racism and Intolerance, Sixth Cycle Report on Cyprus, 7 March 2023, 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