Cyprus – Implementation of Alternatives to Detention of Third Country Nationals in Cyprus

Cyprus

Cyprus Refugee Council

The organisation

The Cyprus Refugee Council (CyRC), is an independent, non- profit organization, established in 2017, as the evolution of the Humanitarian Affairs Unit (2006-2017) of the NGO Future Worlds Center.  During its 13 years of operation, the organisation has grown significantly to become an expert on refugee related issues, making it one of the main actors in Cyprus. CyRC strives to safeguard, support and advocate for the rights of vulnerable groups in Cyprus, promoting their effective integration, as well as working closely with the local society in order to provide quality services at the individual, community and policy level.

CyRC’s team is made up of dedicated professionals with extensive experience working directly with refugees, asylum seekers, detainees, trafficking victims, survivors of torture and irregular migrants. CyRC utilises an inter-disciplinary approach, by providing individualized legal, social and psychological support to persons of concern with the aim to ensure access to rights, integration into the local communities and a satisfactory quality of life.

Besides implementing a UNHCR funded project from 2006 to 2017, CyRC implemented a considerable number of related projects under various funds such as UNVFVT, EC funds, EPIM, ECRE, German Embassy and others.

Main goals

It remains one of our main objectives to provide assistance and support to individuals in the asylum and/or migration procedures. As an organisation which aims at promoting the rights of such persons, we consider issues related with immigration detention, an intrinsic part of our work. Having implemented two EPIM-funded projects, CyRC has extensive experience in providing CM, conducting evidence-based advocacy, establishing communication pathways with state authorities and liaising for the adoption of ATD on selected cases in detention. Finally, CyRC is a highly regarded organization, due to its long presence and experience in the field of providing support to asylum seekers, refugees and vulnerable groups.

Detention involves various rights that can be at risk, with the right to liberty being the overarching right. Liberty and the presumption against detention are the first two principles that underpin the Revised CAP Model. Cyprus is a valuable case-study in the analysis of the effectiveness of how Case Management and Advocacy can change the narrative with regards to ATD, since it is a small country with a fairly small number of migrants in detention. Therefore, it becomes easier to analyse the impact and shortcomings of our work and adjust our activities accordingly.

Through the implementation of the Project, CyRC ensures that the conversation on ATD by state and non-state focuses on engagement-based models rather than the coercive-based approaches that are in effect.

The pilot

The Project builds on the progress and achievements established under the 2017-2019 Pilot, with the main objectives of reducing immigration detention, promoting engagement based ATD and contributing to the growing evidence and momentum on ATD at a national and regional level.

In regard to activities, the Project team provides individualized Case Management (CM) to persons that are in detention and/or at risk of detention including asylum seekers, rejected asylum seekers, irregular third country nationals and “non-removables”. CM is based on a holistic approach: encouraging trust, engagement and collaboration with the system, working towards case resolution and aiming towards the reduced use of detention. CM includes social counselling, mediation with authorities, psychological support, legal advice, and referral to other organisations/services to cover basic needs. A Screening and Assessment phase is conducted prior to CM, using an adaptation of the Vulnerability Screening tool, developed by IDC and UNHCR.

Furthermore, the Project is utilising an “advocacy through doing” approach, which includes advocating on individual cases to highlight the benefits of engagement based ATD by:

  • Using evidence derived from CM;
  • Maintaining alliances with CSOs and other independent bodies;
  • Aiming to generate ATD practices or policies for specific groups;
  • Outlining systemic gaps and the ineffectiveness of coercive-based approaches.

CM provides CyRC with further qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate to the relevant authorities that the proposed CM model can lead to higher engagement rates and case resolution. Through CM, CyRC engages in frequent communication with state authorities and services in order to address the needs of beneficiaries and exchange up-to date information with the aim of contributing towards timely case resolution.

Along the way we identified and engaged with new stakeholders, which can impact on ATD, conditions in the community and coverage of basic needs. The Project team is pursuing informal and frequent meetings/communication with authorities to discuss individual cases, which also gives opportunity to advocate on the issu as a whole, utilising the evidence produced from CM.

 

Main achievements to date

Since the commencement of the Project in July 2019, the Project team has proceeded to the CM of 44 POCs, including persons who are in detention and in the community at risk of being detained. All of the cases managed are currently active/pending (none have reached resolution, or closure), and through CM, they are receiving adequate guidance from the Project team which leads to their improved interaction and engagement with authorities, combined with mediations and interventions undertaken by the Project team, which can be considered as a factor contributing to timely case resolution.

The experience of implementing the present Project, as well as the previous pilot has significantly contributed the Project team’s ability to continue its “advocacy through doing” on engagement based ATD. This is primarily a direct result of implementing CM, which has provided the Project team with substantial evidence on the lack of procedures, systemic gaps and enhanced the Project team’s technical expertise in CM, therefore reinforcing the narrative towards the adoption of ATD.

The Project team will continue working towards the desired impact which is provide CM to persons in detention or at risk of detention and contribute towards their case resolution, and to maintain the engagement of the authorities in ATD discussion and consider engagement based ATD for vulnerable persons.

Resources