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Governance of migrant integration in Cyprus

Cyprus became an immigration destination in the mid-1980s as a result of economic growth and the subsequent demand for foreign labour. Following its 2004 accession to the EU, the island has been attracting a growing number of EU nationals. In addition, in recent years, Cyprus saw a rising number of third-country nationals (TCNs) arriving as either migrants or as asylum seekers.

The Republic of Cyprus is in the process of formulating a structured migrant integration policy as, until now, the majority of integration programmes and actions were carried out on an ad-hoc basis by governmental institutions, local authorities, and civil society organisations. All programmes have been carried out with the support of EU funds.

The statistics in the chart above are based on Eurostat's Share of non-nationals in the resident population, 1 January 2020.

According to the Cyprus Civil Registry and Migration Department, there were 161,000 foreign nationals, both EU and TCNs, residing in Cyprus on 31 December 2019. Of them, 42,200 were TCNs, representing 5% of the total population.

In 2018, according to the same department, 22.5% of TCNs had a permanent residency permit, 8.6% were asylum seekers, and the rest held some form of temporary residence permit (for employment, studies, family reunification or other purposes). Most permits were issued on the grounds of employment (45.2%), family reunification (12.4%), and international protection (9.8%).

The 2011 population census of 2011 showed that the three most represented countries of origin of TCNs residing in Cyprus were the Philippines, Russia and Sri-Lanka. 

Integration strategy

In 2021 Cyprus finalised a comprehensive National plan for the integration of migrants to serve as a reference document for state integration policies, as well as to delineate the overall priorities the state would seek to address. The plan also sets the parameters for project financing for the new EU programming period, 2021-2027.

The national plan was developed following an open consultation process with migration and integration practitioners, civil society organisations, government agencies and services, national authorities and migrants themselves. Following that process, 8 priority axes for integration were formulated:

  • interventions related to the recognition and certification of migrants’ knowledge and skills
  • interventions related to the training of migrants and other target groups
  • interventions aimed at raising awareness among migrants, host societies and those involved in the integration process
  • interventions that facilitate migrant access to the welfare state
  • protection of the rights of vulnerable groups of migrant and refugee background
  • interventions to support the integration process through ongoing counselling
  • development of supportive tools for integration
  • establishment of a management mechanism

Integration programme

There is no mandatory, overarching integration programme in Cyprus.

However, several projects aiming to promote the integration of TCNs have been implemented to support migrants. They provide information services, as well as training and education opportunities. Additionally, multiple programmes seek to raise awareness and understanding among the host population and specific groups such as employers, journalists, public officials and other on issues of migration. Since 2007, initiatives provide sometimes-free-of-charge Greek language classes or civic education to young and adult TCNs, as well as integration awareness trainings for employers, teachers, journalists and public officials.

Notable projects funded through the EU's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) seek to support integration include:

  • Migrant Information Centre (MiHub): MiHub operates in 4 cities in Cyprus and serves as a one-stop-shop for assistance, support and information to migrants.
  • Mathaino Ellinika: A project offering Greek-language lessons and mediation services to migrant students attending schools around Cyprus. The project is specifically designed to meet the needs and expectations of TCN students, helping them to elevate their capacity to speak, read and write in Greek. Furthermore, it has trained migrant mediators who serve as the link between schools and migrant families, offering support to ensure effective communication between them.
  • An initiative of the education ministry and the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute promotes the social and educational integration of TCNs in schools. through the empowerment of teachers and the improvement of relationships between schools and parents (active in the 2017-2018 period).

Evaluation

No evaluation is publicly available for either the integration plan or the integration projects.

Evaluation may, however, be available for the separate EU-funded projects which follow strict quality assurance rules.

Legislation

Law on foreigners

The Aliens and Immigration Law (Chapter 105) of 1952 regulates the stay of TCNs in Cyprus. The most recent amendments made in 2017 align this national law with EU directive 2014/36/EU on seasonal workers as well as EU directive 2014/66/EU on intra-corporate transfers.

Asylum Law

The Cypriot Refugee Law of 2000 complements the law on foreigners to provide better protection for refugees. It was last amended in 2016 to align with the revised EU directive 2013/32/EU on asylum procedures and the EU directive 2013/33/EU on reception conditions. In 2017, the Cypriot parliament also approved the agreement between the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) and Cyprus regarding UNHCR’s operations in the country.

Integration law

Cyprus does not have a self-standing integration law.

Citizenship law

The Civil Registry Law states that TCNs can acquire Cypriot citizenship after 7 years of legal residence (or 5 years if they are the parents of Cypriot citizens). Migrants can also acquire citizenship if they have been married to a Cypriot national for more than 3 years and have lived in the country for at least 2 of them. Amendments introduced in 2011 and 2013 also allow for the naturalisation of non-Cypriot investors even if the latter do not fulfill the the above criteria.  

Anti-discrimination law

Several legislations combatting discrimination in Cyprus are applicable to migrants. The Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation Law of 2004 addresses discrimination on the ground of race and ethnicity in the field of social protection, medical care, education and access to services. The Equal Treatment in Employment and Work Law is also applicable. The Law Fighting Racial and Other Discriminations combats all types of discrimination related to racial or ethnic origin.

Public authorities

The governance of integration in Cyprus is led by the interior ministry. Ιts European Funds Unit assesses funding needs and subsequently designs and manages the implementation of AMIF projects, while its Civil Registry and Migration Department is meant to improve the administrative capacity of public services.The interior ministry is also the Cypriot contact point coordinator for the European Migration Network.

Other national stakeholders involved in migrant integration include the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute of Ministry of Education and Culture which is particularly active with the integration of TCN minors, as well as the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance which prepared the Strategy on the employment of TCNs.

At the regional and municipal level, local authorities are taking a very active role in the integration of TCNs. Municipalities offer social support services such as counselling, psychological support, daycare for children aged 5-12, as well as information services, seminars and intercultural events. Over the years, around 15 municipalities across the island have taken part in the integration programme by local authorities project, either as project coordinators or as project partners.

Civil society

There is no consultative body on migrant integration in Cyprus.

However, NGOs do take part in the Monitoring Committee of the AMIF National Programme 2014-2020, the latter being periodically revised to address the latest migration and integration challenges. The committee meets at least once a year, also to monitor the progress of the national programme under AMIF.

Otherwise, civil society organisations in Cyprus mainly offer legal and social support, provide integration services, conduct research and raise awareness on issues affecting migrants and refugees. Several informal volunteer groups have also been established recently to support refugees and asylum seekers with finding employment and organising recreational activities.

Funding

EU Funds

Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several EU funds. EU funds dedicated to integration are available in Cyprus through the coordinating national authorities listed below.

The information below will be updated once the national programmes under the 2021-2027 EU funds become available.

Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) in Cyprus

  • Details: The national allocation for Cyprus under AMIF for the 2014-20 period was €39,105,838. Out of it, 31% was allocated to asylum, 25% to integration and 36% to return activities. The Cypriot AMIF programme worked on the following national integration priorities: supporting integration actions for TCNs; improving acceptance of TCNs by the local society; supporting local communities, NGOs, and public authorities in order to better promote integration; improving administrative capacity.
  • National managing authority: The responsible authority for the AMIF in Cyprus is the European Funds Unit of the interior ministry.

European Social Fund (ESF) in Cyprus

  • Details: the European Social Fund (ESF) helps to create new jobs and boost employment. The fund has a focus on youth and disadvantaged people, including migrants. ESF also contributes to increasing educational opportunities.
  • National managing authority: The European Social Fund Unit of the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance is the intermediate body for the ESF in Cyprus. The unit is responsible for the selection and monitoring of the projects funded by the ESF.

Other EU funds for integration available in Cyprus

ERASMUS+, the EU’s programme to support education, training, youth and sport in Europe

National managing authorities: the Youth Board of Cyprus is the responsible National Authority in the areas of youth and non-formal Learning for the Erasmus+ programme, while the Foundation for the Management of the European Lifelong Learning Programmes is responsible for educational programmes in the fields of education and training.

European Regional Development Fund (ERDF): aiming to strengthen economic and social cohesion in the EU by correcting regional imbalances.

National managing authority: Directorate General for European Programmes, Coordination and Development

Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD): aiming to reduce the number of people at risk of poverty and/or social exclusion and to combat early school leaving due to financial issues

National managing authority: Directorate General for European Programmes, Coordination and Development

European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), supporting the development of rural economies and communities

National managing authority: Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

National managing authority: Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment; EMFF supports coastal communities in diversifying their economies and finances projects that create jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts

Other funding in Cyprus

Other stakeholders and useful resources

Providing integration services 

  • KISA operates a migrants and refugees centre that provides free information, support and mediation services
  • CARITAS Cyprus provides humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees including referrals to health services and emergency shelters
  • The Cyprus Red Cross offers humanitarian assistance as well as medical and psychosocial services to vulnerable migrants
  • The Cyprus Refugee Council offers legal and social services to refugees and asylum seekers
  • Hope for Children provides support and social services to unaccompanied minors, including shelter and foster families
  • MiHub operates 4 information centres to support migrants' social inclusion in the local communities

Implementing integration programmes

Campaigning

  • UNHCR ensures the upholding of the rights and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers
  • KISA carries awareness-raising towards the Cypriot society, as well as lobbying to influence the legal and structural framework in the fields of migration, integration and non-discrimination
  • Hope for Children conducts advocacy actions and provides capacity building trainings
  • Opinion & Action Services LTD carries out awareness-raising campaigns targeting all age groups of the host society and particularly minors
  • Cyprus Refugee Council carries out awareness raising campaigns and action actions to inform the public and influence public perceptions towards refugees and asylum seekers

Publishing research

  • Cyprus Statistical Services
  • The ombudsman investigates complaints against any public service or officer for actions that violate human rights or are in contravention of laws and other rules. The ombudsman also prepares reports and recommendations for changing the policies and practices that lead to discrimination.
  • CARDET conducts research on education

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