Special reception needs of vulnerable groups


Country Report: Special reception needs of vulnerable groups Last updated: 30/11/20


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The Refugee Law extends the categories of persons considered as vulnerable to include those mentioned in Article 21 of the recast Reception Conditions Directive:[1]


“[M]inors, unaccompanied minors, disabled people, elderly people, pregnant women, single parents with minor children, victims of human trafficking, persons with serious illnesses, persons with mental disorders and persons who have been subjected to torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence, such as victims of female genital mutilation.”


The law also introduces an identification mechanism, specifically it provides that an individual assessment shall be carried out to determine whether a specific person has special reception needs and / or requires special procedural guarantees, and the nature of those needs.[2] These individualised assessments should be performed within a reasonable time period during the early stages of applying for asylum, and the requirement to address special reception needs and / or special procedural guarantees applies at any time such needs are identified or ascertained.


In 2019, the Asylum Service carried out screenings of vulnerabilities at the First Registration Reception Centre in Kokknotrimithia, however these were not full assessments and the results indicated that cases were going on unidentified. From March 2019 until present the Cyprus Refugee Council also carried out vulnerability assessments at the Centre utilising relevant UNHCR tools and through this process identified a sufficient number of vulnerable persons that were referred to the responsible authorities. Such referrals led to cases of vulnerable persons being allocated to specialised examiners at the Asylum Service, as well as priority given to such cases. However, it is not clear if any other procedural guarantees are being applied. Furthermore, it has not led to an assessment and provision of any special receptions needs.

In mid-2019 and onwards efforts have been made by the Asylum Service and EASO in collaboration with UNHCR and the Cyprus Refugee Council to set up a comprehensive vulnerability assessment procedure at the First Registration Reception Centre including the development of a common tool to be used for screening and assessing vulnerable persons and a standard operating procedure. Due to the rise in the numbers of new arrivals this has been put on hold.


Unaccompanied children who have applied for asylum are not placed in the reception centre and are referred to shelters for children run or funded by the State. There have been few cases of unaccompanied children being placed in foster families or with other adults on a temporary basis. There are no reported instances of potential children placed into common accommodation with adults while undergoing age assessment procedures.


Families, single women and traumatised people are placed in the Kofinou reception centre under the same conditions applicable to all other residents. From 2018 onward, no new single males are admitted. Single men who were already residing in the Centre and single women are placed in different rooms in distinct sections, while families do not share their living space with others. Regarding family unity, overall efforts are made to keep families together. When it comes to welfare services and reception centres, families are treated as an entity.


In relation to preventing gender-based violence in the reception centre, the Refugee Law provides that the competent authorities shall take into consideration gender and age-specific concerns and the situation of vulnerable persons and that appropriate measures shall be taken in order to prevent assault and gender-based violence, including sexual assault and harassment.[3] Up until today, there are no specific guidelines or procedures in effect to guarantee the efficient implementation of those provisions and further monitoring is required.


For the purpose of receiving proper education, the needs of children with disabilities are identified and assessed by the Ministry of Education in the context of their obligation towards children with special needs.


In respect to UASC, there are five shelters hosting children aged between 14 and 18; one in Nicosia, three in Larnaca and one in Limassol. Children below the age of 14 are hosted in the youth homes operated by the Welfare Services for all children under their guardianship (nationals, EU nationals, third country nationals (TCNs)) and some of them are subsequently placed in foster families following relevant procedures.


The operation of all shelters is monitored by the Social Welfare Services and three of them are managed directly by the NGO – Hope for Children-CRC Policy Center (HfC) following on from a relevant agreement between the State and the organisation. The latter has been running the Nicosia male Youth Home since 2014 and recently took over the management of two more shelters in Larnaca.


The actual number of unaccompanied children hosted in each shelter as of the end of 2019 is shown in the table below:





Number of residents


Male Youth Home (HfC)




Male Youth Home (HfC)








Female (HfC)









All UASC are placed at the shelters according to their space availability following referrals by the Welfare Services. During the reporting period, it has been noted that the lack of space within the few shelters that exist is causing great delays in the placement of the UASC in one of the shelters. As a result, the minors spend excessive periods of time (up to two months in some cases) within the First Reception Centre which is not designated as a child-appropriate space, and where an adult population is present. The same applies for two more accommodation shelters in the community where children are placed in premises where adult persons (usually elderly people and others) are also hosted.


Conditions in shelters vary with those being directly under the management of Social Welfare Services facing more challenges, especially in regard to staff capacity, infrastructure conditions, social and psychological support and integration activities. Educational arrangements both within mainstream education and non-typical education contexts are in place across all shelters, however a considerable number of children, especially girls, do not regularly attend school.


The transition to adulthood is also reported as problematic. The Commissioner for the rights of the Child published a report expressing concern over the lack of measures to support unaccompanied migrant children who turn 18 to access suitable accommodation, education, training, employment, information and social, psychological and mental health support. [4]


By the end of 2020, when a safe zone area within the First Arrival Registration Centre (Pournara) is expected to be set up, the placement of an UASC to one of the shelters will only take place after the conclusion of the age assessment procedures.


[1]Article 9KΓ Refugee Law.

[2]Articles 9KΔ(a) and 10A Refugee Law.

[3]Article 9IΔ(7) Refugee Law.

[4]Έκθεση της Επιτρόπου, αναφορικά με τις διαδικασίες μετάβασης στην ενηλικίωση των ασυνόδευτων ανηλίκων αιτητών ασύλου, available at: https://bit.ly/2UthBEa.


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