Refugee issues in Cyprus

Cyprus has been a destination for a consistently increasing number of immigrants, regular and irregular. According to national sources, the estimated number of irregular migrants in Cyprus is 50,000. Cyprus enacted refugee national legislation in January 2000 and its asylum institutions started conducting Refugee Status Determination (RSD) in 2002. In 2007, 6,784 persons submitted asylum applications and from January until September 2008, 2,994 persons applied for asylum. The number of the asylum-seekers pending to be examined at the end of September 2008 was 8,691. Cyprus continues to rank first among the industrialized countries in the per capita number of asylum applications.

In principle, asylum-seekers are not denied access to Cyprus. Most asylum-seekers, however, do not try to enter the country through official channels, in order to avoid the risk of not being admitted. While the Asylum Service (the first instance body that examines asylum applications and the coordinating body on asylum seekers’ issues) has done considerable progress in setting up the structures and the processes to ensure quality decisions, the reality remains that the number of Eligibility Officers (EOs) against the number of applicants is still objectively insufficient. This is clearly substantiated by the fact that at the end of September 2008, there were 8,691 cases pending to be decided.

Other problems related to refugees issues in Cyprus are the following:

- There is neither legal aid nor lawyer networks that provide legal aid for free. Coverage by NGOs is insufficient.
- The high number of asylum applicants has caused difficulties to the welfare to provide for the minimum reception conditions as set out in the Reception Condition Regulations of 2005.
- Labour offices are to refer asylum seekers to jobs but the number of referals is very low.
- Integration programs such as language and vocational training, appear to be insufficiently disseminated among asylum seekers and refugees. Moreover, the practical difficulties faced by refugees are not sufficiently taken into account when it comes to the organization of such programs.
- There are no alternatives to administrative detention.
- There is only one reception center in the country with a limited capacity to 80 people.

written by UNHCR Representation in Cyprus

No comments: