Migrant Integration Governance in Cyprus
Cyprus became an immigration destination in the mid-1980s, as a result of economic growth and the subsequent demand for a foreign labour force. Most integration programmes and projects implemented since then for the integration of migrants have been ad hoc, co-financed by EU funds and run by civil society organisations or local authorities.
On 1 January 2018, around 71 797 Third Country Nationals (TCNs) were legally residing in Cyprus. They represented 7% of the total population.
88% of them had valid temporary resident permits and 12% had long-term residency. Employment (45%), family reunification (13%) and international protection 11% are the most represented purpose of stay, as revealed by data published on 31 July 2016.
According to the latest population census of 2011, the 3 most represented countries of origin of the third country nationals residing in Cyprus are Philippines, Russia and Sri-Lanka.
There are no statistics available on the overall stock of TCNs who have acquired Cypriot citizenship but authorities have communicated that 3 300 were naturalised between 2009 and 2015.
To integrate or foster the social inclusion of these populations with migrant background, Cyprus set up its first Action Plan in 2010 and revised it in 2013. Both documents covered a period of 3 years and their actions mainly aimed at:
- increasing the participation of immigrants in the social and public life
- recognising their social, economic, political and cultural rights, as well as their needs
- combating racism and discrimination
However, the council of ministers adopted a Strategy on the Employment of TCNs already in 2007. It established a framework for the management of both the entry of foreign workers (quotas) and the eligibility (and procedures) to hire a TCNs residing in the country which main condition was the absence of local labour force for the offered position.
More recently, the 2014 National Inclusion Policy (NIP) identifying gender mainstreaming as a national priority includes elements of support and information to TCNs legally residing in the Cyprus, through local governments and civil society. The work of the Interdepartmental Committee for the integration of children with a migration background in the Cypriot educational system set up by the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2011 led to the adoption of a Policy Document for students’ integration which focuses on the systematic support in all levels of education in 2016. In addition, the Youth National Strategy 2017-2022 covers issues like education, vocational training and health which directly affect TCNs.
There is no mandatory and generalised integration programme in Cyprus. However, several projects aiming to promote the integration of TCNs have been implemented in the country since 2007 to provide (free) Greek language classes or civic education to young and adult TCNs, as well as to integration awareness trainings to employers, teachers, journalists, public officials, etc. AMIF is for example currently supporting an initiative by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute aiming at promoting the social and educational integration of TCNs in Cypriot schools through the empowerment of teachers and the relationship between schools and parents (2017-2018).
In addition to these projects, 4 Migrant Information Centres (MICs) permanently operate across the country. They serve as one stop-shops for services to TCNs and applicants or beneficiaries of international protection. They provide guidance and advice on housing, access to health, education services, administrative support, translation and interpretation services, etc. The website MiHub, as well as InfoBuses are also available to TCNs who do not have easy access to the 4 MICs.
Cypriot integration projects include:
þ language course
þ civic education
þ vocational training
No evaluation is publicly available for neither the Action Plan nor the integration projects. However, projects funded by the European Integration Fund and the European Refugee Fund (2007-2013) have been evaluated by an external evaluator. Those funded by AMIF (since 2014) are typically evaluated as part of the projects’ implementation requirements, usually by participants themselves.
þ Foreigners Law
The Aliens and Immigration Law (Chapter 105) of 1952 regulates the stay of Third Country Nationals in Cyprus. The most recent amendments, made in 2017, align the national law with the EU Directive 2014/36/EU on seasonal workers as well as the EU Directive 2014/66/EU on intra-corporate transfers.
þ Asylum Law
The Cypriot Refugee Law of 2000 complements the Foreigners Law to provide better protection to refugees. It was last amended in 2016 to align with the recast Directive 2013/32/EU on asylum procedures and the Directive 2013/33/EU on reception conditions. In 2017, the Parliament also approved the agreement between UNHCR and the Government of Cyprus regarding UNHCR’s operations in the country.
ý Integration Law
Cyprus does not have a self-standing integration law.
þ Nationality Law
The Civil Registry Law states that TCNs can acquire the Cypriot nationality after 7 years of legal residence (5 years if they are parents of Cypriot citizens). They can also acquire citizenship after being married to a Cypriot national for more than 3 years and have lived in the country for at least 2. Amendments introduced in 2011 and 2013 allow for the naturalisation of non-Cypriot investors, without fulfilling the criteria above.
Several legislations combatting discrimination in Cyprus are applicable for 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 applies to employment and the work environment. And the Law fighting racial and other discriminations combats all types of discrimination related to racial or ethnic origin.
The governance of integration issues in Cyprus is led by the Ministry of Interior. Its Special Committee of Experts on the Integration of Third Country Nationals prepared the Action Plan of 2010 – 2012, its European Funds Unit assesses funding needs and subsequently designs and manages the implementation of AMIF projects, while its Civil Registry and Migration Department is making efforts to improve the administrative capacity of the public services. The latter also acts as the Cypriot national representative at the European Integration Network.
In addition to the Ministry of Interior, other national stakeholders involved in migrant integration include the Cyprus Pedagogical Institute of Ministry of Education and Culture which is particularly active with minor TCNs and the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance which prepared the Strategy on the Employment of Third Country Nationals.
On the regional and municipal level, local authorities are taking a very active role in the integration of third country nationals, partly with the support of EU funds. Municipalities offer social support services such as counselling, psychological support, day-care for children 5-12 years as well as information services, seminars and intercultural events. Over the years, around 15 municipalities across the island have taken part in the project Integration Programme by local authorities’, either as the Project Co-ordinator or as project partners.
There is no consultative body on migrant integration in Cyprus. However, NGOS take part in the Monitoring Committee of the AMIF National Programme 2014-2020 which is periodically revised to face the latest migration and integration challenges. The Committee meets at least once a year, also to monitor the progress of the National Programme.
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 established recently to support refugees and asylum seekers in finding employment and recreational activities.
Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one in terms of budget. Coordinated by the European Funds Unit of the Ministry of Interior, the national allocation for Cyprus under AMIF is € 38.430,489. 26% of this amount is allocated to asylum, 26% to integration/legal migration, 34% to return and 14% to technical assistance and special cases pledges, (resettlement, relocation).Cypriot AMIF programme presents the following national integration priorities:
- Support integration actions for TCNs
- Improve acceptance of TCNs by the local society
- Support local communities/NGOs/public authorities promoting integration
- Improve administrative capacity
The Home Affairs Funds also distribute funding to service providers and other entities implementing national strategies. Other national funds are made available for service providers to carry out projects aiming for a better integration of the migrant population.
þ Providing integration services
- KISA operates a Migrant and Refugee 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
- Cyprus Red Cross offers humanitarian assistance as well as medical and psychosocial services to vulnerable migrants
- 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
þ Implementing Integration Programme
- CARDET implements various integration programmes, offering language and capacity building courses, and developing online tools
- IOM offers advisory services and technical cooperation on migration issues. It currently implements an integration programme on health-related needs of TCNs
- University of Nicosia implements various integration programmes including the provision of support for the operation of the Migrant Information Centres
- KES College implements Greek language lessons for adults
- UNHCR ensures the upholding of the rights and welfare of refugees and asylum seekers
- KISA carries awareness-raising toward the Cypriot society, as well as lobbying activities 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
þ Publishing research
- Cyprus Statistical Services
- Ombudsman investigates complaints against any public service or officer for actions that violate human rights or are in contravention of laws and rules. It also prepares reports and recommendations on policies and practices that lead to discrimination.
- CARDET conduct research on education