Cyprus

Cyprus is not state party to any of the four core statelessness conventions, being one of only four European Union member states yet to accede to the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons. Its performance against international standards in other areas of the Index is generally weak, and there is very little reliable data on the stateless population. Although statelessness is referenced in Cypriot law and may be identified in certain administrative procedures, there is no definition of a stateless person, no dedicated statelessness determination procedure, no stateless protection status, few protections against arbitrary detention, and few safeguards to prevent statelessness in Cypriot nationality law.

Some procedural safeguards exist in the asylum procedure and in relation to detention, including the right to legal aid and remedies. If refused asylum and subsidiary protection, a stateless person may be considered for a short-term residence permit on humanitarian grounds by the Migration Department, but this is discretionary, grants limited rights and is not consistently applied. There is no safeguard to prevent children being born stateless in Cyprus, nor to regulate the citizenship of foundlings. Problematic birth registration practices, including fees and requests for documentation, heighten the risk of statelessness among certain groups. Children born to Cypriot parents abroad acquire citizenship automatically, but where a child is born in Cyprus to one Cypriot parent and one non-Cypriot who entered or remained in Cyprus irregularly, a discriminatory condition prevents the child from acquiring nationality unless the Ministerial Council orders otherwise.

Last updated: 
Feb 2019
Next scheduled update: 
Mar 2020
Country expert(s): 

Corina Drousiotou, Cyprus Refugee Council

Additional resources

ASSESSMENT KEY

++POSITIVE
+ SOMEWHAT POSITIVE
+-POSITIVE and NEGATIVE
- SOMEWHAT NEGATIVE
--NEGATIVE

ADDITIONAL INFO

-NORMS & GOOD PRACTICE

 

International and Regional Instruments

Assesses whether countries are state party to the relevant international and regional instruments, including whether reservations have an impact on statelessness, and whether instruments are incorporated into domestic law. The four core statelessness treaties (1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons; 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness; European Convention on Nationality; Council of Europe Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession) carry more weight than other relevant human rights instruments in the assessment.

Although Cyprus has a relatively good record of accession to international human rights instruments more generally, when it comes to protecting stateless people and preventing and reducing statelessness, its treaty record is poor. Cyprus is one of only four European Union member states not yet party to the 1954 Convention on the Status of Stateless Persons, and indeed, is not party to any of the four core statelessness conventions. However, Cyprus is state party to all other relevant regional and international instruments (except for the Convention on Migrant Workers), and so is bound by a range of specific obligations under international law including to uphold the child’s right to a nationality and to protect stateless people from arbitrary detention.

  • Cyprus is not state party to the 1954 Convention. It introduced a legislative bill in 2011 for accession but this is still pending.
  • Cyprus is not state party to the 1961 Convention.
  • Cyprus is not state party to the European Convention on Nationality nor to the Convention on the Avoidance of Statelessness in Relation to State Succession.
  • Cyprus is state party to all other relevant regional and international instruments except for the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Statelessness Population Data

Examines the availability and sources of disaggregated population data on statelessness. Provides recent figures and assesses reliability of measures countries have in place to count stateless persons, including in the census, population registries and migration databases. Notes whether statelessness has been mapped in the country and whether there are effective measures in place to count stateless people in detention.

There is very little reliable data on the stateless population in Cyprus. There are no measures in place to count stateless people in the national census, nor other national statistical databases, and statelessness has never been mapped in Cyprus. Asylum statistics contain relevant categories to record the number of applications lodged by stateless refugees, but recording is not consistent, there have been discrepancies in how Palestinians are recorded, officials tend to conflate former country of residence with nationality, and reported figures are so low as to suggest significant underreporting.

  • Cyprus does not have any measures in place to count stateless people in its national census, nor other national statistical databases.
  • Asylum statistics contain relevant fields to count asylum applications lodged by stateless people and those with unknown nationality, but recording is not consistent, and people are often registered by officials as having the nationality of their country of former residence even if they say they are stateless.
  • There are also discrepancies in how Palestinians are recorded in asylum statistics. Until September 2014, Palestinian asylum seekers were registered under their country of habitual residence (along with nationals of those countries), and people from the West Bank and Gaza were registered under 'Occupied Palestinian Territories'. Between September 2014 and September 2015, UNRWA-registered Palestinians were registered as 'stateless' and those holding Palestinian Authority documents as 'Occupied Palestinian Territories'. Since September 2015, recording has been standardised, and all Palestinians are now registered as 'Occupied Palestinian Territories'.
  • Data on the stateless population in Cyprus is very likely underreported. For example, in 2014, 4 asylum seekers were registered as stateless, 70 in 2015 and none in 2016-2018.
  • As the authorities do not maintain reliable data on the stateless population, UNHCR is unable to estimate the numbers and there have been no surveys or mapping studies of the stateless population in Cyprus.
  • The authorities hold data on people in detention in Cyprus, but the figures do not indicate the presence of any stateless people in detention.
  • However, in practice, several stateless people have been identified over the years in detention including a considerable number of Syrian Kurds in the period 2011– 2014 as well as people from the Former Soviet Union who have not acquired the nationality of any of the succeeding states, including Romani people.
  • There is no data on people released from detention due to being unremovable.

Statelessness Determination and Status

Identifies whether countries have a definition of a stateless person in national law that aligns with the 1954 Convention, and whether they have a dedicated statelessness determination (SDP) procedure; or, if not, whether there are other procedures or mechanisms by which statelessness can be identified and legal status determined. Countries are subdivided in four groups to enable comparison between those with an SDP in place, those with other administrative procedures, those with a status but no clear mechanism, and those without any status or mechanism. Where a procedure and status exist, these are assessed against norms and good practice, and the rights granted to recognised stateless persons are examined.

Although statelessness is referenced in Cypriot law and may be identified in certain administrative procedures, there is no definition of a stateless person, no dedicated statelessness determination procedure, and no stateless protection status. Some procedural safeguards exist in the asylum procedure and stateless refugees may be granted international protection if they meet the refugee definition (or threshold for subsidiary protection). Some stateless people refused asylum were previously granted humanitarian protection if they could not return to their countries of former residence, but this status was abolished from the Refugee Law in 2014. A short-term residence permit may be granted for humanitarian reasons by the Migration Department if a person is refused asylum and referred to them for consideration, but rights in this case are very limited - no access to social security or healthcare and discretional access to the labour market – and the procedure is not set in law nor consistently applied.

  • There is no definition of a stateless person in national law, although there are references to stateless people in the Refugee Law, Aliens and Immigration Law, and Civil Registry Law.
  • There is no dedicated statelessness determination procedure in Cyprus, but there are other administrative procedures through which statelessness may be identified.
  • Statelessness may be identified through the refugee status determination procedure or in the process of renewal of temporary residence permits, but statelessness determination is not a specific objective of either of these mechanisms.
  • The Refugee Law provides that applications for asylum may be submitted for examination by the Asylum Service by stateless people who fear persecution in their country of former habitual residence.
  • In the procedure to renew temporary residence, if someone is denied renewal of a document from their country of origin, they may in turn be denied renewal of their temporary residence in Cyprus by the Migration Department. In this case, they may be issued a short-term residence permit on humanitarian grounds, but there is no formalised procedure, and people are not routinely made aware of this possibility.
  • UNHCR provides training to asylum authorities in which the protection needs of stateless people are highlighted. Training and legal and technical advice are also provided in UNHCR's supervisory and monitoring role of the refugee status determination procedure. Some training sessions are open to other stakeholders.
  • As there are no standardised procedures relating to statelessness determination cooperation between authorities is difficult. The Asylum Service may refer stateless people in the asylum procedure to the Migration Department to grant short-term residence on humanitarian grounds, but this is not done consistently.
  • In refugee status determination procedures, the burden of proof is shared, and the standard of proof is ‘balance of probabilities’.
  • Decision-makers are not presented with clear guidance on how to determine statelessness.
  • In refugee status determination procedures, an interview is provided, unless it is not in the applicant's best interests, and interpreters are provided.
  • Decisions are always in writing, but at first instance these are only given in English or Greek and in summary (full reasons in English or Greek can only be accessed and reviewed at the offices of the Asylum Service).
  • At the Reviewing Authority level, an interview is not normally conducted but may be if deemed necessary; the full reasoning of the decision is provided to the applicant, but only in Greek.
  • Legal aid is provided only for judicial appeals and is subject to a merit and means test, which people can rarely argue for without legal assistance, so, in practice, there are significant barriers to accessing legal aid.
  • There is no stateless status in Cyprus.
  • Stateless refugees may be granted refugee status if they meet the refugee definition, or subsidiary protection, but the latter does not give family reunion rights, and neither gives access to housing schemes or student grants.
  • Prior to 2014, a number of stateless people were granted humanitarian status under the Refugee Law if they were refused international protection but could not return to their countries of former residence.
  • Humanitarian status gave rights similar to asylum seekers, but it was abolished in 2014 from the refugee law.
  • A short-term residence permit may be granted for humanitarian reasons by the Migration Department if a person is refused asylum and referred to them for consideration.
  • The rights granted under this status are very limited and similar to those of foreign visitors: no access to social security, the labour market or healthcare. Access to the labour market may be granted in some cases at the discretion of the Migration Directorate.
  • The short-term residence procedure is not set in law and not consistently applied.

Detention

Analyses law, policy and practice relating to immigration detention generally, focusing in on protections in place to prevent the arbitrary detention of stateless people during removal and deportation procedures. Subthemes examine areas such as detention decision-making, whether alternatives to detention are legislated for and implemented, procedural safeguards such as time limits, judicial oversight and effective remedies, as well as protections on release and whether statelessness is considered juridically relevant in bilateral return and readmission agreements.

There are few protections in Cyprus against the arbitrary detention of stateless people. Although powers for detention are set in law and should only ever be applied as a last resort, a proposed country of removal does not need to be identified before ordering detention, statelessness is not considered juridically relevant, and an examination of alternatives is rare, despite less coercive measure being established in law since 2016. There are some procedural protections in law, including an obligation to provide written reasons for detention and information about remedies, a time limit in the case of detention for removal, and access to legal aid. However, in practice, reasons given are often general and not based on individual considerations, monitoring visits have revealed that detainees are unaware of their rights, and access to effective remedies is limited. There is no automatic judicial review of detention, and no consistent access to documentation on release, leaving stateless people at risk of re-detention and destitution.

  • Powers for detention are set out in the Aliens and Immigration Law and the Refugee Law, and grounds permitted go beyond those allowed under ECHR 5(1)(f).
  • The Aliens and Immigration Law regulates detention in accordance with the EU Returns Directive, and the Refugee Law regulates the detention of asylum seekers in accordance with the EU Reception Directive and Dublin Regulation procedures.
  • A proposed country of removal does not need to be identified prior to detention for removal.
  • Statelessness is not explicitly juridically relevant in the decision to detain, but there should be an examination of whether there is a reasonable prospect of removal, however, in practice, this is rarely applied.
  • The law provides that detention should only be used as a last resort and when alternatives cannot be applied in each specific case. However, detention is usually ordered without an assessment of the necessity of detention or an examination of alternatives, and there have been cases of stateless people being detained in practice.
  • Individual vulnerability assessments appear not to be carried out before or shortly after a decision to detain. Individuals in situations of vulnerability have been identified in detention during monitoring visits, including survivors of trafficking, sexual violence and torture. Statelessness is not defined as a vulnerability factor.
  • Since 2016 alternatives to detention are provided for in law and include regular reporting, financial guarantee, stay in a designated place, and probation.
  • However, alternatives are not subject to a time limit or proportionality test, there are no implementing guidelines or regulations for their application, and there is no evidence of alternatives being considered prior to detention in practice.
  • Since 2016 there is no designated time limit on detention under the Refugee Law.
  • Detention under the articles of the Aliens and Immigration Law that reflect the Returns Directive cannot exceed six months, extendable for a further 12 months if the detainee refuses to cooperate or a third country delays issuing documents. Detention under other articles of the Aliens and Immigration Law do not have a time limit.
  • The obligation to provide written reasons for detention and information about remedies is set in law, but in practice this is often a general reference to the legal ground on which detention is based without any individual reasoning.
  • Information is given to detainees on how to judicially challenge detention under the Constitution but not on habeas corpus procedures, and a written leaflet given to detainees does not contain information about remedies or legal aid. In practice, monitoring visits have revealed that detainees are not aware of their rights or reasons for detention.
  • There are no longer any provisions for automatic review of detention under the Refugee Law (since 2016). Under the Aliens and Immigration Law, the Minister of Interior automatically reviews detention every two months to confirm its legality and necessity, but there is no automatic judicial review.
  • Two legal remedies are available to detainees: a challenge before the administrative court on the lawfulness of detention, and a habeas corpus challenge before the Supreme Court on grounds of the length of detention.
  • Legal aid is available to detained asylum seekers with no merit and means test, but the number of applications is low. NGO lawyers may provide assistance to prepare cases, but they are not permitted to appear before the court. Legal aid is also available to challenge return, removal and entry ban decisions but not deportation or detention decisions, which seriously impedes access to an effective remedy for those detained under the Aliens and Immigration Law.
  • There is a circular on the issuance of travel documents to undocumented detainees under deportation procedures, which provides some guidance on the process of redocumentation and ascertaining nationality.
  • Documentation is not consistently issued to people without legal status who are released from detention.
  • Where a short-term residence permit on humanitarian grounds is to be issued, individuals are given a letter from the Migration Department informing them that they are entitled to stay and work in Cyprus with conditions to apply for such a permit. This does not permit access to social security or legal aid. In practice, in the majority of cases the conditions are not able to be met and the permit is not issued. Stateless people face an additional obstacle in accessing these minimal rights as one of the conditions is the submission of a valid passport.
  • In practice, stateless people may remain without documentation and at risk of re-detention and destitution on release from detention.
  • Cumulative time spent in detention does not count towards the maximum time limit.
  • Statelessness is not considered juridically relevant in readmission and return agreements.

Prevention and Reduction

Assesses the adequacy of safeguards in nationality laws to prevent and reduce statelessness, including protections for otherwise stateless children born on the territory or to nationals abroad, foundlings and adopted children. Examines law, policy and practice on birth registration, including access to late birth registration, reduction measures taken by states to prevent statelessness among groups at high risk, and provisions regarding withdrawal of nationality.

There are few safeguards in Cypriot nationality law to prevent statelessness in Cyprus and little evidence of measures to reduce the risk of statelessness. There is no provision in law to prevent children being born stateless in Cyprus, nor to regulate the citizenship of foundlings. Adopted children acquire citizenship but may face a risk of statelessness during the procedure. Children born to Cypriot parents abroad acquire citizenship automatically, but where a child is born in Cyprus to one Cypriot and one non-Cypriot who entered or remained in Cyprus irregularly, a discriminatory condition usually applied in cases of mixed marriages between Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers (or other non-Cypriots) means the child does not acquire nationality unless the Ministerial Council orders otherwise. Problematic birth registration practices, including fees for both in-time and late registration, as well as reports of requests for documentation being a barrier to registration, heighten the risk of statelessness among certain groups. There is no safeguard against statelessness nor any judicial oversight in cases of withdrawal of nationality.

  • There is no provision in law for children born on the territory who would otherwise be stateless to be granted Cypriot nationality.
  • Stateless children (regardless of their place of birth) may acquire citizenship as dependents through an application by their parents. Adults may apply after seven years’ legal residence (in the case of persons who reside in the country solely for the purpose of work, including visitors and students), or five years if residing legally as beneficiaries of international protection.
  • National law provides for the registration of the birth of a foundling but there are no provisions in the law regarding the citizenship of foundlings.
  • There is no provision in law regulating the adoption of a child national by foreign parent(s). However, Cypriot nationality can only be withdrawn if the person acquired it by registration or application and not if it was acquired by birth or descent, and there are no restrictions on the number of nationalities a person can have.
  • A foreign child adopted by national parents acquires nationality upon the date of the adoption (date of the court order). The child may be stateless during the procedure but in practice there is no indication that this is an obstacle in the adoption procedures.  
  • People aged over 18 who are adopted by nationals do not acquire nationality automatically but must apply for nationality under standard naturalisation provisions.
  • Children born abroad to at least one parent with Cypriot nationality are Cypriot nationals. There are no conditions and registration of the birth at a consulate is a formality and not a condition to acquire nationality.
  • However, in cases of children born in Cyprus where one parent is Cypriot and the other is non-Cypriot and entered or remained in Cyprus irregularly, the child does not acquire nationality unless the Ministerial Council orders otherwise. This condition is considered to be discriminatory and is usually applied in cases of mixed marriages between Turkish Cypriots and Turkish settlers or other non-Cypriots who entered or remained irregularly in the country.
  • All births must be registered at the respective District Administration Office within 15 days of the date of birth regardless of whether the parents are undocumented or illegally residing in the country.
  • The birth must be recorded within three months from the date of birth.
  • There is a fee of 5 EUR (as of Dec 2018) to record a birth.
  • Undocumented parents, including stateless people, may face difficulties registering births in practice as there have been cases where they were asked to present passports or other documentation as a condition for registration, and they may fear being detected as irregular residents. Several complaints have been submitted to the Children’s Commissioner in this regard.
  • Late registration is possible by law but subject to late registration fees of 150 EUR, which can be an obstacle to registration.
  • In cases where the three months have elapsed an affidavit and approval of the Registrar are required.
  • There are no current government initiatives in Cyprus to promote civil registration and no measures aimed at reducing statelessness or the risk of statelessness.
  • The following sections of the population are believed to be stateless or at risk of statelessness: stateless Syrian Kurds; a small number of citizens of the former Soviet Union, including Roma; a small number of Uyghurs; Palestinians; the children of refugees born in Cyprus; the children of Cypriot nationals and Turkish nationals who have entered or remain in Cyprus irregularly; Turkish settlers living in the occupied northern part of Cyprus and their children born in Cyprus who may have lost and/or not acquired Turkish nationality and hold the non-recognized nationality of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”.
  • Provisions for withdrawal of nationality are established in law and may only be applied where nationality was acquired by naturalisation or registration and not by descent.
  • Nationality can be withdrawn in specific cases including fraud, particularly serious criminal offences, disloyalty or engagement in war against the Republic, or residence abroad for a continuous period of seven years without notification.
  • There is no safeguard against statelessness in the law.
  • The competent authority is the Council of Ministers, and there is a right to request an investigation by the President and Council of Ministers but not a judicial review. There is no judicial oversight, no right to legal aid and no time limit. There may be recourse before the Administrative Court under the Constitution.
  • There have been cases of revocation of citizenship in practice.

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