At year's end, more than 1,300 refugees and asylum seekers were in need of protection in Cyprus. These included 1,326 asylum seekers with pending applications and 10 persons granted refugee status during the year. About 1,600 persons sought asylum in 2001, most arriving from Middle Eastern countries in small boats. Some 265,000 persons remained internally displaced in Cyprus at year's end.

Asylum Procedure and Law

While the Cypriot Parliament approved a new Refugee Act in January 2000 that provides for an asylum procedure, the government had not established a process for making asylum determinations by the end of 2001. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) therefore continued to conduct refugee status determinations.

Cyprus does not regard itself as an asylum country, and expects recognized refugees to seek resettlement in other countries if repatriation seems unlikely.

The government does not maintain reception centers or other accommodations 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 agreed to issue three-year residence and work permits to recognized refugeees. The Refugee 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.

Detention and Deportation

The government of Cyprus maintains a 130-bed detention facility for undocumented asylum seekers and migrants, but also reportedly detained illegal foreigners in Cypriot jails in 2001. In addition, the British army, which maintains a military base in eastern Cyprus, detained more than 100 asylum seekers and migrants during the year. In November, a group of Iraqi asylum seekers on the British base set fire to the building where they were detained to protest what they feared was their imminent deportation. The asylum seekers reportedly had entered the British base in the hope of being resettled to the United Kingdom. Foreigners reportedly account for almost 30 percent of Cyprus's prison population. A local press report published in July alleged police brutality against undocumented migrants in detention pending deportation.

Authorities in Turkish-controlled northern Cyprus arrested and detained at least 220 asylum seekers in 2001. Known cases of refoulement from northern Cyprus included 78 Iraqis deported to Turkey, which in turn deported them to northern Iraq.

Internal Displacement

The displacement in Cyprus 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 forcibly displaced between 180,000 and 200,000 Greek Cypriots. Concurrently, about 50,000 to 60,000 Turkish Cypriots fled north, including many who had been displaced before.

On December 4, Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders met for the first time in four years and agreed to resume UN-sponsored negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus in January 2002. The two sides remained divided on core questions, including the contentious issues of the displaced and property return. Final negotiations for Cyprus's accession to the European Union, set to begin in the fall of 2002, appeared to give new impetus to the negotiations.


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