IWB for refugees: Cyprus

Summary of the national legislation on refugees

The rights of Refugees’ and legal obligations of Nation States to refugees are covered internationally by the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees also known as 1951 Refugee Convention and, the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Cyprus is a signatory to both the 1951 Refugee Convention and the 1976 Protocol. Incisively, it ratified the Refugee Convention on 16th May 1963 and the 1976 Protocol on 9th July 1968.

As a member of the European Union (EU), Cyprus obeys all legal mandates as enshrined under European law especially as a member of the Dublin Regulation in which defines the country responsible for providing asylum to a refugee applicant; and obliges that the application of an asylum seeker be examined only by one State.

At national level, some of the most central domestic legislative acts that entail issues such as the asylum procedures, detention and reception conditions are the following:

  • Refugee Law 2000 (6(I)/2000)
  • Refugee (Asylum Seekers’ Reception Conditions) Regulations 2005
  • Refugee (Asylum Seekers’ Reception Conditions) Regulations Amendment 2013
  • State Medical Institutions and Services General Regulations 2000-2013
  • Medical Institutions and Services (Regulations and Fees) 1978-2013
  • Aliens and Immigration Law (Cap.105)
  • Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained Law 2005
  • Legal Aid Law 2002
  • General Administrative Law Principles Law 1999
  • Law on the establishment and operation of the Administrative Court (131(I)/2015)
  • Administrative Court Law

Sources

Asylum Service “Guide for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus”, 2011 Available at: http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/asylum/asylum.nsf/All/E3C438ECC1B2210BC22578400052F169/$file/Guide%20for%20asylum%20seekers%20and%20beneficiaries%20of%20international%20protection%20in%20Cyprus.pdf.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Handbook on European Law Relating To Asylum, Borders and Immigration, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2014

KISA, Asylum Procedures in Cyprus (19 January 2009), Available at: http://kisa.org.cy/asylum-procedures-in-cyprus/

Refugee Law 2000 (6(I)/2000) (Greek translation: Ο περίΠροσφύγωνΝόμοςτου 2000 (6(I)/2000)) Available at: http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/2000_1_6/full.html

Status of treaties 1951 and 1967 for UNHCR website – April 2015 Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/3b73b0d63.html

Refugee life in Cyprus

Findings about Cypriot authorities in the context of refugee crisis

  1. There is a sense of compassion and duty exuded by the Cypriot authorities in dealing with the refugee situation. Not the most powerful nation when it comes to Economic might, Cyprus has been shouldering its own sense of duties concerning the influx of refugees in this part of the Mediterranean.
  1. Tent facilities, supplemented by food and ration supplies in capital Nicosia and on the outskirts of the city, in areas such as Kokkinotrimithia have been housing refugees under the count of 60 ever since their arrival starting December 2015.
  1. Background checks of the refugees, many of those on certain occasions being children continues for months.
  1. Senior Cypriot officials have clearly benchmarked who’s to be welcomed in the island nation and who is to be deemed ‘unwelcomed’
  1. In the lines of the above, the local authorities are welcoming of anyone, regardless of age as long as the subject isn’t ‘dangerous’, as shared with The Guardian.
  1. There is vigilance and extreme care taken to ensure that harmless and innocent refugees are not devoid of the shelter they so richly deserve considering the ongoing chaos in the Middle East and at the same time, consisting monitoring and background checks reveal that some, under the count of 10 have connections to extremist/terrorist groups.
  1. Constant talks and communication regarding bettering the refugee situation in this part of the world between Cyprus and the United Kingdom have seen personal intervention by UK’s Conservative Politician, Phillip Hammond who has gone lengths to ensure that British Air Bases on Cyprus do not end up offering a backdoor entry for migrants to the UK.

What is the current situation of refugees moving about in Cyprus?

The past and present of the refugee life in Cyprus

In the past, refugees from major clusters of the Middle East have arrived in Cyprus. These are displaced persons belonging to Kurdish and Iraqi regions.

At the moment, dialogue is taking place between Cyprian authorities and the United Kingdom over the sharing of the refugee ‘burden’. Neither governments treat this as a major concern, but yet show some kind of response to the Middle East’s greatest crisis since the Iraq and Iran war. Nevertheless, peaceful and hassle-free means of sharing the current crisis are means with which governments on both sides- Britain and Cyprus- look to mitigate problems.

There is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Cyprian authorities and the RAF Akrioti base (under the auspices of the UK), basis which currently, refugees are given the following options:

  1. To apply for asylum in the Republic of Cyprus: this is a process that the UK Government is going to help with

 

  1. Prepare for Deportation: in all likelihood to Lebanon.

It is important to note however, that it isn’t the first time that refugees have arrived in this beautiful part of the Mediterranean.

A group of 67, mostly Kurdish and Iraqi refugees had arrived in the British base area way back in 1998 are still embroiled in a legal limbo and remain on the Cyprus base. As we draft the report, many in the Dhekelia base at Cyprus are receiving aid in form of toiletries, tents, showers and even sim-cards have been provided by the local authorities for the convenience of the refugees.

The MOU, established in 2003, provides for efforts to avoid recurrence of the situation that took place in 1998. At present, illegal routes to escape to Britain from Cyprus are being formed. While the act is condemnable, the UK authorities are constantly working with Cyprian government to curb the issue.

Employment options and refugee camp realities:

Countries like Germany, Austria, Belgium and Netherlands have shown the way and demonstrated exemplary qualities in extending a hand of support and what may be called ‘a temporary home’ for the Refugees fleeing Middle East.

Cyprus too is following suit, despite a high tide of its obvious economic undercurrent, which is not fictional by any stretch of imagination.

By the current economic spot that countries like Cyprus and Greece find themselves in, there are no plenty of economic employable opportunities available in Nicosia and elsewhere. While this can be a huge morale defeater for those who find themselves displaced and now in Cyprus, they cannot be more thankful and filled with gratitude especially for the elimination of the threat to their existence.

Due to economic reasons and a somewhat strange inkling to be heralded to the UK, most refugees wish to move to the UK from Cyprus. Till January, 2016, only 6 out of 115 refugees had applied for asylum in Cyprus.

According to Kisa Asylum Advocacy Group

According to Mr. Doros Polykarpou who is director of the Kisa asylum advocacy group and a vocal advocate of the refugee problem in Europe, “Right now we have a small number of people. If it comes to such a condition that increasing numbers of people are arriving in Cyprus or the bases, then we need to develop a mechanism so they can be relocated in other European countries. But to punish people right now, and not to take its [Britain’s] own legal obligations due to a preventative policy, is unacceptable in my opinion.”

 

Concluding remarks

In situations where there is a huge exodus of people due to territorial disputes or demographic geo-political calamities, one cannot expect peace. But, to an extent, thanks to Europe’s compassionate approach in mitigating the ‘rough tide’ faced by refugees, there is no upheaval so to speak on the lives of those displaced, despite being torn away from their homes.

The legal process

Under the Refugee Law of 2000, any person who arrives Cyprus and wishes to apply for asylum may do so at every legal entry point and at any police station within the territory. In a case that the person is under detention or is being imprisoned, he/she can apply for asylum at the prison, detention centre or police station where he/she is detained.

As noted by the Asylum Information Database (AIDA) report, “In practice all asylum applications are received by the Aliens and Immigration Unit, which is an office within the Police. One such office exists in each of the 5 districts in Cyprus (Nicosia, Limassol, Larnaka, Paphos, Ammochostos)” (AIDA, 2015, p. 14)

When submitting his/her application, the applicant’s fingerprints are taken and, he/she is informed in a language clearly understood by the applicant about his/her rights and obligations as provided by law. The information includes: the asylum examination procedure, his/her benefits, the reception conditions and general procedures as well as organizations or groups of persons who can provide him/her with legal advice or support in relation to reception conditions.

After submitting the application, the applicant receives a confirmation letter, which gives him/her access to health care, work, education, and other rights. Within 3 days of receiving the confirmation letter, he/she is required to undertake a medical examination (Asylum Service, 2011, p. 8).

As a final step, the applicant receives a letter from the Asylum Service inviting him/her for the conduction of an interview. The asylum application is examined by the Asylum Service which is the main and responsible body for the examination of asylum applications. During the interview, the applicant can ask for the assistance of an interpreter if need be, and should explain the reasons for his/her application with supporting documents where applicable.

After the conduction of the interview, the applicant should be informed within six months about the result of his/her status within any of the following categories: a) refugee status, b) subsidiary protection status or c) his/her asylum application has been rejected.

Sources

Asylum Service “Guide for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus”, 2011 Available at: http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/asylum/asylum.nsf/All/E3C438ECC1B2210BC22578400052F169/$file/Guide%20for%20asylum%20seekers%20and%20beneficiaries%20of%20international%20protection%20in%20Cyprus.pdf.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Handbook on European Law Relating To Asylum, Borders and Immigration, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2014

KISA, Asylum Procedures in Cyprus (19 January 2009), Available at: http://kisa.org.cy/asylum-procedures-in-cyprus/

Refugee Law 2000 (6(I)/2000) (Greek translation: Ο περίΠροσφύγωνΝόμοςτου 2000 (6(I)/2000)) Available at: http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/2000_1_6/full.html

Status of treaties 1951 and 1967 for UNHCR website – April 2015 Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/3b73b0d63.html

Interviews

I am text block. Click edit button to change this text. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

Description of what happens if they do not receive the refugee status

When an applicant’s asylum application is rejected, he/she has the right to appeal to the Refugee Review Authority within 20 days. In a case of rejection of the request by the Refugee Review Authority, the applicant is entitled to appeal to the Supreme Court within 75 days.

However, according to AIDA’s latest report, starting from 20th July 2015, an asylum seeker whose application has been rejected by the Asylum Service should appeal to the Administrative court instead of the Refugee Review Authority.

After the submission of the first appeal (within 20 days), an asylum seeker still enjoys an asylum seeker’s rights and has the right to live in the country legally. Though, when one appeals to the Supreme Court, or his/her case pending, he/she is not considered an asylum seeker anymore and many end up a destitute facing the risk of deportation.

According to the KISA non-governmental organization:

“In such cases, […] they are normally tolerated to remain in Cyprus but if they are arrested in this «illegal situation», they are detained for as long as the Supreme Court examines their case.”

Sources

Asylum Service “Guide for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in Cyprus”, 2011 Available at: http://www.moi.gov.cy/moi/asylum/asylum.nsf/All/E3C438ECC1B2210BC22578400052F169/$file/Guide%20for%20asylum%20seekers%20and%20beneficiaries%20of%20international%20protection%20in%20Cyprus.pdf.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, Handbook on European Law Relating To Asylum, Borders and Immigration, Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2014

KISA, Asylum Procedures in Cyprus (19 January 2009), Available at: http://kisa.org.cy/asylum-procedures-in-cyprus/

Refugee Law 2000 (6(I)/2000) (Greek translation: Ο περίΠροσφύγωνΝόμοςτου 2000 (6(I)/2000)) Available at: http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/2000_1_6/full.html

Status of treaties 1951 and 1967 for UNHCR website – April 2015 Available at: http://www.unhcr.org/3b73b0d63.html

Analysis of how the media depicts the refugees in Cyprus

It is important to note the lessons that History serves: how a place often marred by civil disturbances and exodus of some kind can be home to a strategic military base of a major global power. Talking in the context of the current Refugee Crisis, any such one who experiences the beautiful Mediterranean nation of Cyprus in the middle of the storm does prudent justice to the above.

Since the mid-1950s, the Royal Air-Force base called Akrotiri in Cyprus has been a place fuelled by tremendous military activity. Constructed after the Second World War, Akrotiri, has been the major base on the beautiful Mediterranean Island nation relieving pressure off the main RAF station on the island, RAF Nicosia.

It is interesting to note that how in the events surrounding the world’s largest exodus of refugees since the Second World War, the RAF Akrotiri is still stands amidst a storm. But, this isn’t just any other storm as the Cyprus media reports. Having been a witness to the siege during the Anglo-Egyptian treaty, British forces had to be withdrawn from the Canal Zone in the Egypt, just miles from the important Cyprus Air base.

Since the end of the League of Nations mandate over Palestine, circa 1948, RAF Akrotiri, a busy place amidst tense Military preparedness for any future course of actions was the only home of the British territory in Cyprus. This in more ways than one is the bridge that connects the often tense and volatile Middle East to a Europe that currently finds itself at the confluence of economic uncertainties and huge influx of refugees from the same Middle East.

Cut to 2016 and we find an interesting depiction by the Cypriot and European media of the said place.

A major transit point for a thriving world in the Middle East which connects millions to the Eldorado of Europe, RAF Akritori, according to The Guardian, takes regular bouts of refugees fleeing from the Middle East to the beautiful Mediterranean nation of Cyprus.

As at January 1, 2016, close to 55 refugees from the latest count of 115 migrants were taken in at the famed RAF Akritori air-base. The same, within few hours of their arrival were safely taken to an accommodation near the capital city of Nicosia, without any marked danger or threat whatsoever.

The subjective perspective

By Athanasia Zagorianou

While I was conducting my research on refugees in Cyprus, officially the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), one of the major issues that I encountered, and which I feel is worth noting, was the lack of information on the legal procedure that asylum seekers need to follow.  As it has already been noted in our report “the Asylum Service is the main and responsible body for the examination of asylum applications in RoC”. Even though the Cyprian Republic’s Asylum Services website offers a link to a handbook titled “Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for Determining Refugee Status”, access to it is not actually feasible and the website is not appropriately updated. A 2011 guide entitled “Guide for asylum seeker and beneficiaries of International Protection in Cyprus” does not include the latest updates regarding the legal process. As a result, asylum seekers have difficulties accessing important information on how to proceed with their application and be kept up to date regarding the legal procedures, activities and legislation. For information on the asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention, another reliable website is the Asylum Information Database (AIDA), a database started as a project of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE).

The country is also lacking in integration support both during the asylum process and after an applicant has been successful and has been granted protection in RoC. The economic situation in the country also affects the situation of refugees, restricting their employment opportunities while language and vocational training is also limited.

According to AIDA, “Persons often arrive at the Aliens and Immigration Unit expressing their intention to apply for asylum and are given an appointment at a later date or told to return in a few days. There have been cases where individuals were asked by the Police to proceed with translating their documents (professional translators oftentimes charge a high fee), before they are allowed to submit an asylum application, even though no such obligation exists in the law and, on the contrary, the law stipulates that free interpretation is provided at all stages of the asylum procedure.”

Main issues that refugees and asylum seekers face include the lack of legal representatives and consultants, lack of psychological support, risk of detention, lengthy procedures and the risk of deportation before they even receive the final decision on the asylum claims. As Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, noted in his report after visiting Cyprus in December 2015, “Despite some progress made in immigration law and policy, Cyprus’ asylum system still suffers from a number of shortcomings that need to be urgently redressed”.

Cypruscy

Capital: Nicosia
Location: Southern Europe
EU-member since 2004
Currency: Euro
Population: 1,141,166
GDP: $27,415 per capita
Min. wage: 924 Euros (2012), Upon first recruitment 870 Euros (2014)

IWB Researchersforwebsite

Would you like to join the campaign?
image_pdfimage_print

Proposed by

on 21 September 2015

Be the first who shares an opinion!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *