Cyprus considers all minors without a parent(s) or legal guardian as unaccompanied minors. Under art.10 of the Refugee Law 6(Ι)/2000, the guardian for all unaccompanied minors in the Republic of Cyprus is the Director of the Social Welfare Services (SWS), a governmental department operating under the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance. The SWS has a wide remit of work and legal obligations, amongst which the guardianship of unaccompanied minors. The guardians of unaccompanied children are also responsible for national children whose physical and psychological integrity is at risk. For this reason there is one unified system of guardianship in Cyprus. The SWS must act on behalf of the minors and must put the legal apparatus of protection, care and welfare into practice.
Due to practical reasons, “acting” (practical) guardians are the officers of the welfare services who handle files of unaccompanied minors, respectively for the minors whose files they have been assigned to. For instance, at ‘Home For Hope’-centers, one officer is assigned the files of all minors residing there and she is the “acting guardian” for them. Nevertheless, for serious decisions (e.g. reunification, travel procedures) consultation with and approval by the Director is necessary.
Accommodation for unaccompanied minors is regulated by the colonial Children Law of 1956. The text is available in EN here: http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/0_352/full.html There are a number of options provided, such as foster care, hostels (i.e. children shelters)or “other”. In practice, unaccompanied minors are accommodated in specialised children shelters. According to the law, shelters for teenagers must be gender-specific. Apart from the previous mentioned reception centre ´Hope for Children” (in Nicosia, accommodating up to 24 male unaccompanied minors, who are referred to Hope for the Children by SWS) there are two more such centres in Larnaca District (one for boys and one for girls), which are operated in full by the government. Occasionally, if all specialised shelters are full, unaccompanied minors might be accommodated in other governmental centres for children. Please note, that governmental shelters, although specialised on accommodating unaccompanied minors, do not offer the wide range of legal and psychological support of Hope for the Children, since this is not demanded by law. Also, a number of unaccompanied minors are placed with foster families. To foster a child the family needs to communicate their intention to the SWS and after screening they are assigned a child. A monthly stipend is provided to the family to cover for the child’s needs. The foster families are chosen based on their ability to take up a child and on factors such as religion, country of origin and language, that coincide with that of the child. However, foster families are usually hard to find and there haven been cases where foster families subjected minors (both nationals and unaccompanied minors) to mal-treatment. Thus, this is not the preferred accommodation.
For all processes relevant to asylum, the responsible authority is the Asylum Service, which operates under the Ministry of Interior. Within the Asylum Service there is a Dublin Unit. The Asylum Service has taken over this task in January 2002. Up to then, asylum applications were handled by UNHCR Cyprus.
Advise for guardians
Legally speaking, the appropriate authority to contact would be the SWS. Due to workload and other practical difficulties however, this is not always easy. Usually, the Asylum Service is in a position to contact corresponding authorities in other European Member States, while the SWS get in touch with the corresponding authorities in other European Member States through the International Social Services organisation. Also, there usually is good communication between these two governmental departments and they may refer cases and/or information to each other.
HFC – UNCRC Policy Center Headquarters
75 Limassol Avenue Office 201, 2nd Floor 2121 Nicosia, Cyprus
Social Welfare Services, Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance, Republic of Cyprus
Regarding unaccompanied minors:
Ms. Marina Efthymiadou
Ms. Maria Panayi:
Asylum Service, Ministry of Interior, Republic of Cyprus
Afemia House, 70 Arch Mkariou III Avenue, 1077 Nicosia, Cyprus
For Dublin transfers specifically