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Cyprus 2023

Police reportedly failed to respond effectively to attacks against migrants, refugees and other racialized people. Forcible, summary returns by sea to Lebanon continued. A new inquest began into the death of army conscript Athanasios Nicolaou.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Although the authorities increased the capacity of the Asylum Service, there was still a significant backlog in processing asylum applications.

Cyprus continued forcible, summary returns by sea to Lebanon. NGOs denounced two such returns in July and August, stating that, on 30 July, 73 people sent back to Lebanon were then forcibly returned to Syria. In October, NGOs expressed their concern about Cyprus’s plans to support Lebanese border management capacity and for joint border controls.

In 2023, the authorities carried out over 11,000 forced and voluntary returns.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reported that “increasing numbers of asylum seekers are at risk of homelessness”, noting the inadequate social support given to them.

As of October, asylum seekers must wait nine months (increased from one month) after submitting their asylum application before being allowed to work. The Cyprus Refugee Council expressed concern that this would push more people into irregular work and destitution.

In December, amendments to naturalization rules – passed without civil society consultation – tightened residency requirements, and introduced “irregular entry” as a criterion by which to judge an applicant’s “good character”, potentially affecting access to citizenship for refugees, subsidiary protection beneficiaries and migrants. Children born in Cyprus to parents whose entry or stay is irregular – including those with one Cypriot parent – continued to face possible statelessness.

On 27 August and over the following days, mobs held racist demonstrations and attacked migrants, refugees, and other racialized people and migrant-owned businesses in Chloraka and Limassol. NGOs complained that police failed to respond effectively. In November, a trial started against 13 people charged in connection with the Limassol attacks.


In June, following a police investigation, the Cyprus Legal Service decided not to reopen the criminal case regarding the death in 2005 of army conscript Athanasios Nicolaou. A new inquest into his death started in late October. A 2022 report by criminal investigators had concluded that his death was murder by strangulation and identified serious flaws in the police investigation.

Enforced disappearances

Between 2006 and December, the remains of 1,044 missing individuals – 751 Greek Cypriots and 293 Turkish Cypriots – were identified by the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus in its mission to establish the fate and whereabouts of people who were subjected to enforced disappearance during the inter-communal fighting of 1963-1964 and the events of 1974.

Right to a healthy environment

In May, the Administrative Court recognized for the first time environmental NGOs’ right to file public interest claims in environmental matters. In October, the Administrative Court recognized for the first time environmental NGOs’ right to access official documents of an infringement case between the Cypriot authorities and the European Commission in relation to Cyprus’s failure to fulfil its obligations under EU legislation on the protection of natural habitats. Final judgments by the court of appeal were pending in both cases. A Eurostat report published in January revealed that 89% of Cyprus’s overall supply of energy was from fossil fuels – the joint second highest in the EU. According to experts, insufficiencies persisted in the designation, conservation and management of environmentally protected areas.