Cyprus Mail

Conditions in Cyprus for refugees ‘still a far cry from EU standards’

File photo: Kofinou reception centre

Around 65 per cent of people applying for asylum in Cyprus are granted subsidiary protection but conditions for refugees are “still a far cry from EU standards”, according to a new report.

The report was compiled by the NGO Future Worlds Center (FWC) on behalf of the Asylum Information Data Base (AIDA), the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Forum Réfugiés-Cosi, Irish Refugee Council and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee.

The joint project aims to provide up-to date information on asylum practice in 16 EU Member States. It seeks to promote the implementation of EU asylum legislation to the highest possible standard of protection and to raise public awareness on the situations that refugees face when requesting asylum.

FWC  provides an annual detailed report on Cyprus’ asylum practice and conditions based on monitoring visits throughout the year on a regular basis.

According to the statistics, some 1,728 applications for asylum were filed in Cyprus last year, of which 1,148, or 65 per cent, were granted subsidiary protection. Refugee status was granted to 64 people, humanitarian protection to four. The rejection rate was 31 per cent, or 554 and another 448 cases were closed or discontinued for various reasons.

Te vast majority of applicants, 983 were Syrians with numbers under 100 from such counties as Egypt, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, India and the Philippines with 34 people from Iran and ten from Russia and one from Afghanistan. More than 900 of the 2014 applicants were men and over 500 were women while 52 were unaccompanied minors.

The report also highlighted the expansion of the Kofinou Reception Centre’s capacity to host 400 residents.

“Despite the increase in size, asylum seekers are reluctant to actually reside there given the location in a remote area with no easy access to the country’s urban areas,” it said.

“The majority of applicants therefore opt out from accommodation in Kofinou and are given no further state support. At the time of writing the report, Cyprus counted approximately 2,700 persons with a pending application for international protection, with only 122 residing at Kofinou, it added.

“Under current legislation beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status, mostly Syrians, are excluded from the right to family reunification. As a result, many Syrian families end up separated and in some instances children are left behind unaccompanied and liable to exploitation contrary to EU and International Law,” said the report.

“Overall family reunification rights of refugees are restricted to the absolute minimum, with the adoption of most of the optional provisions of the Family Reunification Directive which derogate from the general standards.”

Regarding detention, it said there had been a change in policy whereas asylum seekers were still detained their case must be examined under fast track procedure, within a maximum of 45 days. “If the decision is delayed the applicant must be released. However latest monitoring by FWC suggests that the prescribed time-limits are not being followed by the authorities,” the report said.

“Furthermore, Cyprus continues to detain asylum seekers for deportation purposes as soon as their protection claims have been refused at the first instance, without providing the opportunity to effectively exercise their right to appeal before the Supreme Court. Asylum seekers who are waiting for a final decision from the Supreme Court continue to risk deportation.”



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