Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2017, 11:39 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Cyprus

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Cyprus , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2000, there were 249 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection in Cyprus. These included 210 persons pending refugee status determination and 39 persons granted refugee status but still without durable solutions. Some 265,000 persons remained internally displaced in Cyprus at the end of 2000.

Asylum Procedure and Law

On January 31, 2000, the Cyprus Parliament approved a new Refugee Act. However, while the act provides for an asylum procedure, the government did not set up implementing mechanisms for the new law during the year. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) therefore continued to conduct refugee status determinations. UNHCR reported that 651 applicants approached the agency during the year, the largest groups coming from Yugoslavia (215), Iran (214), Iraq (64), and Syria (30). UNHCR recognized 39 as refugees during the year and rejected 223, a 15 percent approval rate.

Cyprus does not regard itself as an asylum country. Recognized refugees, therefore, are expected to seek resettlement in other countries if their timely repatriation seems unlikely. During the year, 70 refugees from Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey resettled in third countries (the United States, Canada, Norway and the United Kingdom). This represents a large increase in resettlement compared to 1999, when only four refugees were resettled to third countries.

Restrictive Measures

Throughout the year, Cypriot authorities took a particularly hard line regarding asylum seekers arriving with forged documents or without documents.

The Cypriot coast guard often blocked asylum seekers' access to the country. On September 13, they detained 266 migrants from Iraq and Iran whose boat sank off the island's coast. The migrants were held on two small boats, and protested their detention by refusing food and provisions while Cypriot and Lebanese officials argued about who was responsible for taking them.

Cyprus signed a bilateral readmission agreement with Lebanon in 1999 aimed at returning third country nationals traveling from one country to the other without authorization. However, Lebanon has never accepted the return of migrants under the agreement, claiming there has been no evidence that the migrants originated in Lebanon.

In October, the government announced that it would be increasing Cyprus's coastal patrols in order for Cypriot police to intercept and turn back boats of migrants before they landed.

UNHCR established a protection unit in Cyprus in 1999, and began filing habeas corpus petitions on behalf of detained asylum seekers. UNHCR reported that the number of detainees increased, but could not provide exact data.

Assistance, Accommodations

Cyprus provides no reception centers or other accommodation for asylum seekers, but does grant them work authorization and temporary residence permits while their cases are pending with UNHCR. Under the 2000 Refugee Act, Cyprus has agreed to issue recognized refugees with three-year residence and work permits. The 2000 Act also provides for free medical care and primary and secondary education. The Cypriot Welfare Department provides financial assistance to disabled indigent refugees, and, in certain cases, the government provides accommodations to refugees in hotels. Generally, however, refugees find their own accommodations.

Internal Displacement

The displacement in Cyprus is the longest standing in the region. It includes about 200,000 Greek Cypriots displaced in the south of the island and about 65,000 Turkish Cypriots displaced in the north. Cyprus's total population is 750,000 – 78 percent of Greek origin, 18 percent Turkish, and 4 percent Maronite, Armenian, and others.

The first forced displacements occurred between 1963 and 1970, when Greek Cypriot military and paramilitary forces displaced about 20,000 Turkish Cypriots. Turkish troops invaded in 1974 after a coup backed by Greece's military junta removed the legal president. The invasion displaced some 180,000 to 200,000 Greek Cypriots. Concurrently, about 50,000 to 60,000 Turkish Cypriots fled north, including many who had been displaced before.

UN-sponsored negotiations on the reunification of Cyprus continued in September and November 2000 with limited results, particularly on the contentious issue of refugees and property return. Greek Cypriots protested the impasse in negotiations throughout the year.

The UN Development Program took from UNHCR the role of coordinating humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons in Cyprus in 1998.

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