Asylum seekers face a deterioration of reception conditions and increasing risks of destitution in Cyprus. While recent increases in the number of arrivals have intensified situations of overcrowding and substandard conditions in Kofinou, the only reception centre in the country, UNHCR and civil society organisations point to an overall inadequacy of the Cypriot reception system to cater for asylum seekers’ needs and to ensure dignified treatment.

Following a recent policy change by the Asylum Service, Kofinou no longer accepts single male asylum seekers. This means that, beyond 265 people hosted in Kofinou and 130 unaccompanied children residing in special shelters, the vast majority of applicants live outside of centres– over 4,500 people applied for international protection last year. The shortage in accommodation places, coupled with financial assistance which still leaves recipients below the poverty line and new policy changes, exacerbates the risk of destitution for asylum seekers.

A joint statement from UNHCR and national civil society organisations has called on the authorities to provide emergency accommodation to house all asylum seekers, and to increase the level of financial assistance. Cyprus Refugee Council, one of the signatories, said, “We are deeply concerned with the decreasing ability of the reception system to accommodate the vital needs of asylum seekers in the country. The implementation of highly restrictive policies in regards to the level of social assistance and the access to the labour market, combined with the absence of an effective monitoring and support mechanism, has led to an increased homelessness problem among vulnerable asylum seekers.”

*This information was first published by AIDA.


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Photo: (CC) Nina G, August 2006


This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin . You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.