While your application is being examined you will have the legal status of an asylum-seeker and be entitled to certain rights and have certain obligations under the Refugee Law of the Republic of Cyprus.
Non-refoulement is the fundamental right of all refugees and asylum-seekers. What this means is that you are protected against deportation or return to a country where your life or freedom may be in danger on account of your race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion. Even if you enter Cyprus without a visa or entry permit, you should not be deported until your refugee application has received a final decision.
Right to remain
You have the right to remain in the country while the procedure before the Asylum Service and the Refugee Reviewing Authority is pending. If you have submitted an appeal before the Administrative Court, you have the right to remain, except for the following cases:
- Your application is considered manifestly unfounded i.e. it is unrelated to the refugee definition;
- Your application is inadmissible i.e. you are protected in another country, or you are resubmitting your application but there are no new elements to your case, or a dependent who has previously agreed to be part of your application, and has since submitted a separate application, and there are no facts that justify a separate application;
- The reopening of your application is rejected after it has already been closed because of implicit withdrawal or abandonment of the application the first time;
- Your application is not examined or not examined fully because the competent authority has established that you are seeking to enter the country, or have entered illegally, from a safe third country.
Freedom of movement
You can legally reside and move freely in the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus. If you cross to the northern part of Cyprus, which is not controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, even for a short visit, you may not be permitted to cross back to the government controlled areas. You may also risk arrest and imprisonment of up to 12 months, or a fine of up to EUR 1,700.
Access to healthcare
As soon as you get your Confirmation Letter you are eligible to access certain rights, including access to the coverage of your material needs, and access to public healthcare services.
As soon as you have applied for asylum, and received your Confirmation Letter, you will need to apply for a medical card at the Ministry of Health, or the General Hospital in your district in order to have access to the public healthcare system. Download the application form for a medical card here. When you go to submit your application, you must have your Confirmation Letter with you.
Note: Since 2013 all holders of a valid medical card are required to pay certain fees in order to access the public healthcare system. If you are a recipient of social assistance, you are eligible for a medical card with exemptions from all fees. You must request a letter from the Social Welfare Services proving you are receiving social assistance, and submit this letter together with your application for a medical card. If you are working, you will be requested to provide proof of your income for possible exemption from fees.
If you are not a recipient of social assistance, or you do not submit a letter from the Social Welfare Services proving you are receiving assistance, you will receive a standard medical card, with no exemption from fees.
If you reside in Kofinou, you will receive a medical card with an exemption from all fees.
Click here for more information about the procedure to apply for a medical card.
The form also includes explanatory notes and instructions. In order to submit your application you will need to include the following documents with your completed form:
- Letter of confirmation issued by the Asylum Service.
- Copy of Social Insurance Account from the Department of Social Insurance Services or the Citizen Service Centres (for all family members except for children below the age of 18 who are not employed).
- Employer’s certificate showing the amount of earnings, or a work contract, or recent certificate on the social assistance received issued by the Department of Social Welfare Services).
Note: Asylum-seekers are currently not covered by the General Health System (GeSY).
Access to education
You have access to the educational facilities of the public sector. Primary and secondary education are mandatory in Cyprus. Attendance in the public sector schools is free, and it is compulsory until the age of 15 years. Children are required by law to be in school from age 5 onwards. State provisions for pre-primary education are made from this age onwards.
A guide to education in Cyprus:
Right to work
One month from the date of your application for asylum, you can exercise your right to work.
You should register immediately after one month has passed with your local Labour Office and apply for a work permit. You are permitted to work in certain sectors only, per the table below. These sectors may change from time to time – you can stay informed by regularly visiting your local Labour Office. For contact details of the Labour Office and other relevant government departments, click here.
You must register with the Labour Office in order to continue to receive your social assistance benefits until you are able to secure a job, or if you cannot work due to medical reasons. In case you cannot work due to medical reasons, medical proof will be required to support your claim.
As a registered asylum-seeker you are entitled to the assistance of the Labour Office to help you find a job, and you can also seek employment by yourself. If you reject two offers of employment following the referral of the Labour Office, you may lose your social assistance benefits.
If you are successful in securing a job independently, you must notify the Labour Office that you are no longer unemployed. In order to secure your work position, your employer must have permission to hire non-EU citizens, and a contract must be approved and signed by the Labour Department (such contracts can be found in Labour Office).
Once you begin working you will no longer be entitled to receive unemployment allowance, or social benefits allowances. If you are caught working illegally before the one-month period, or while receiving unemployment and social assistance benefits, then these benefits will stop, and you may be prosecuted.
Additionally, note the following conditions for employment:
- Employers are responsible to have all social insurance obligations settled, employer’s liability insurance and medical insurance, and a contract approved by the Labour Office in the name of the concerned asylum applicant.
- Asylum applicants formerly registered as workers in the farming and agriculture sector will only be allowed to work in that field, unless permission to change the sector of employment is submitted and approved.
The sectors of employment have been expanded and are as follows:
Click here for more information about your access to the labour market and employment rights in Cyprus.
Housing and social assistance
If you are an asylum-seeker without an income or any other means of subsistence you can apply for social assistance. You should submit your application to the Social Welfare Services office in your district. For forms and requirements, see below:
For more information about Social Welfare Services in Cyprus, click here.
Your needs may be covered in two ways:
- The Welfare Services will refer you to Kofinou Reception Centre for Asylum-seekers. If there is a vacancy you have to move to the Reception Centre. If you have serious reasons for which you believe you cannot stay at the Reception Centre you must explain these in detail to the Welfare Services. At the Reception Centre, if you have a family, you will have exclusive use of one or more rooms, depending on the size and the composition of the family. If you are a single person, you will share a room with other people of the same gender. You will receive a monthly allowance and you will have access to social support and free medical care. The stay in the Centre is allowed while your asylum application is pending. Note: If you have serious reasons for which you believe you cannot stay at the Reception Centre, you must explain these in detail to the Welfare Services. If you refuse to move to a Reception Centre without valid reasons, you will not be eligible to receive support from the Social Welfare Services.
- If the referral to the Reception Centre is not possible, you may receive support from Social Welfare Services. The aid is currently being offered through a combination of vouchers (for the purchase of food and clothes) and cheques (for the subsidisation of rent and daily expenses). The Welfare Services can refuse an application for social assistance, if they can prove that you are working or you have enough money to cover your needs. After the first 9 months from the date of the application of asylum, support from Welfare Services is dependent on proof that you are not able to work, either for health reasons or due to not being able to find work. If your health does not permit you to work, you will need a medical report, preferably from a governmental medical institution. This report must certify your inability to work, along with the reasons, as well the duration for which you are unable to work.
NOTE: As of April 2018 single male asylum applicants are no longer admitted to the Kofinou Reception Centre. Those facing homelessness must apply for emergency assistance from the Social Welfare Services.
The Kofinou Reception Centre
The Kofinou Reception Centre is currently the only Reception and Accommodation Centre for Applicants for International Protection in Cyprus. It is managed by the state, under the Ministry of Interior and is located in Kofinou in the district of Larnaca. It has a maximum potential capacity to accommodate 400 persons. It offers basic accommodation and food to its residents, access to basic medical services and there are security guards and social workers on duty. Residents receive a small monthly allowance as well as a free medical card for access to the public healthcare system, and bus passes to travel for free to Larnaca, the nearby coastal town.
For more information about the Kofinou Reception Centre, click here.
Levels and categories of social assistance granted to asylum-seekers living outside the Kofinou Reception Centre: