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 competent authorities on asylum issues, including issues related to reception conditions. The Asylum Service is also responsible for the operation of reception and accommodation centres for asylum seekers. Although the Asylum Service may have a coordinating role, each right under the reception conditions is provided for by the competent Ministry, as a result four (4) Ministries are involved, which often leads to fragmented and uncoordinated approach and planning.
From 2019, all persons wishing to apply for asylum who entered the country in an irregular manner, which are the vast majority of new applicants, 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, persons who arrived in a regular manner are provided access to reception conditions in the community or in the Reception Centres (Kofinou, Limnes UASC shelters).
Living conditions in Kofinou are considered decent, whereas conditions in Pournara and Limnes have been evaluated as sub-standard. Regarding shelters for UASC, the condition varies depending on the facility; at times, overcrowding became an issue in some shelters.
With the total number of asylum seekers reaching 16,000 in 2021, and capacity of Reception Centres limited to around 2,500 persons, most asylum seekers reside in the community in private houses/apartments, which they are required to secure on their own. Welfare Services bear 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.
2021 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, the COVID-19 pandemic and an 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.
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 impoverished. Reception centres are overcrowded and in need of structural renovation in order 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.
 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.