The first AIDA Report on Cyprus, compiled by ECRE member organisation Future Worlds Centre, shows that asylum seekers who are currently receiving social welfare support will be obliged to move to the remote reception centre of Kofinou or otherwise lose their social welfare support and risk facing destitution. The centre has expanded its premises and it is expected that in the next months it will accommodate approximately 450 asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who have integrated into the Cypriot community after having spent many years waiting for their asylum application to be examined by the Cypriot authorities, are now expected once again to abandon the lives they have re-built, and move into the Kofinou Reception Centre. Social welfare support will only be maintained for asylum seekers who are not accommodated in this centre if/when it has reached its full capacity.
In addition, the report notes that an increasing number of asylum seekers is detained for prolonged periods of time while their asylum application is being examined by the relevant authorities. Although the majority of asylum seekers are not placed in detention, those who are, are detained in prison-like cells under a high security system. Detainees are permitted to spend only a few hours of the day in public spaces, and are handcuffed by security guards when transferred inside or outside the centre.
The report highlights also that a new law, approved in April 2014, takes away family reunification rights and protection against expulsion from persons granted subsidiary protection (i.e. persons fleeing from armed conflicts or generalized violence). With the sole exception of one person who was granted refugee status, all Syrians recognized in need of international protection in 2013 in Cyprus were granted subsidiary protection.
In addition, the amendments restrict the rights of refugees to enjoy family life. Firstly, only refugees who had their family relationships formed prior to their entry to Cyprus can enjoy this right. Secondly, refugees must submit their application for family reunification within three months after being granted refugee status. These limitations do not take into consideration the specific circumstances of refugees, and pose a serious obstacle to family reunification.
Finally, the new law has removed Humanitarian Status from the Refugee Law which was granted to asylum seekers who did not fulfil the requirements of the refugee or subsidiary protection status yet whose return was not feasible for humanitarian reasons. This status was granted to vulnerable individuals and their family members, such as to people suffering from serious health conditions who if returned to their home country would not have access to healthcare. People with a Humanitarian Status will now have to re-apply for a different status that does not allow these persons to work or access social welfare assistance or free medical care.
This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 12 September 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.