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Differential access to social protection system and benefits - Do some or more categories of migrants minorities or stateless/non-citizens face limitations and restrictions?

Key Area:
Health And Social Protection
Discrimination, Equality
17/02/2012 - 11:30
Short Answer


Qualitative Info

Under pressure from right wing circles to reduce the benefits to asylum seekers, the Ministry of Labour has recently proposed a new legislation restricting state allowances to asylum seekers, by replacing state cash allowance with in-kind provisions and benefits.  The bill has not yet been publicized or circulated for consultation. Media articles record that the bill proposes to offer asylum seekers the following in lieu of cash allowances.

  1. Accommodation/housing in especially designated centres within the community.
  2. Food, clothing, hygiene products and other essentials will be given in the form of coupons or in kind.
  3. Health care will be provided as a service in the same way as for Cypriots.
  4. Free travel cards for buses and other public transport.
  5. Small allowances to cover personal micro-expenses.
  6. The centres will be staffed with qualified non-governmental personnel and from voluntary organisations that will provide specialized services to assist integration in the society.

The proposal aims to address debates and concerns raised by right wing MPs belonging to the ‘centrist’ DIKO party, who had previously tabled a proposal to reduce the amount of state benefits received by asylum seekers claiming that the latter receive “massive funds” from the state which are “higher than those received by Cypriots”, enabling them to buy “luxury cars” and use the services of expensive private clinics.

A survey carried out in 2011 by the UNHCR regarding asylum seekers in Cyprus found that out of the thousands living on the island, only hundreds actually receive state benefits.Those who did receive benefits endured long delays in processing of their applications, long delays in payment, delays in subsequent payments and discrepancies in the amounts they received. UNHCR found that many people who applied at the Social Welfare for public assistance had given up because they were told to leave and to look for a job, even though the Labour Office could not provide them with one. From those surveyed, the UNHCR found that the required home visit by welfare officials to an asylum seeker’s place of residence usually took between one and three months but over 12 per cent took longer. After the home visit, it then took over four months in one fifth of cases to receive the allowance, and after that, delays in receiving it regularly. When it came to subsequent payments over 32 per cent said they had to visit the welfare office between three and five times before they got paid again, over 15 per cent had to visit between six and ten times, 8.5 per cent had to go between 11 and 20 times and ten per cent over 20 times.

In September 2010 a Congolese diabetic asylum seeker was found dead in his hotel room, where he lived for six years.  In the last months prior to his death his welfare subsidy had been discontinued and he had no money for his rent, his medication or for food. A migrant support NGO he had contacted prior to his death told the press that in the last weeks before his death he had to beg for food and that a doctor had confirmed that diabetics on insulin may fall into coma if not fed properly. Upon his arrival in Cyprus in 2005 he had repeatedly tried to file an asylum application but the police had sent him away. His asylum application was pending for five years during which he was interviewed 2-3 times by the Asylum Service.  The migrant support NGO stated that six months prior to his death, the Social Welfare Services and the Department of Labour had been debating as to who is responsible for the problem of welfare subsidies to asylum seekers who cannot work in the agricultural sector but could not reach an agreement.

The Fourth ECRI report on Cyprus published in 2011 records racist and xenophobic tendencies in the healthcare system. The report states that language barriers sometimes complicate access to healthcare for foreigners, quoting the 2010 FRA Annual Report which recorded that treating patients in minority languages proved to be problematic and that in some hospitals medical personnel refused services to patients who were not able to communicate in Greek. ECRI further notes that although healthcare is free of charge for those whose salaries are below a certain threshold, it is standard policy to refuse migrants free healthcare even if their salary is below that threshold. Also, asylum seekers and refugees are consistently refused special treatment abroad when the medical treatment or procedure required cannot be provided in Cyprus.




Data N/a
Groups affected/interested Migrants, Asylum seekers
Type (R/D) Anti-migrant/xenophobia
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Health and social protection
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