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Strengthening Asylum – UNHCR

strengthening asylum logo

Overall Objective

Strengthening Asylum is implemented by the non-governmental organisation Future Worlds Center since May 2006, and is funded by the UNHCR Representation in Cyprus. The project gives us the responsibility to work towards strengthening the asylum system in the Republic of Cyprus, and assisting asylum seekers during the asylum procedure, as well as refugees, residing in Cyprus under international protection. The project offers free legal and social advice to asylum seekers and persons under international protection. Its main objective is to ensure that beneficiaries have access to a fair and efficient asylum procedure, while they can enjoy the rights they are entitled to according to national, European, and International law. The team implementing the project consists of two Legal Advisors and one Social Advisor part of the Humanitarian Affairs Unit who offer individual consultation to the beneficiaries, and a Public Information Officer who seeks to raise awareness within the Cypriot community on refugee and asylum matters. Overall, the project aims to advocate for the enhancement of rights of asylum seekers and refugees, as well as to support, and encourage their integration into the Cypriot society.

What we do

Legal Advice

Our team of Legal Advisors provides free, confidential, and independent legal advice to asylum seekers and refugees. The asylum application procedure can often be daunting for people who have fled insecurity and are seeking protection. A major role for our legal team is to make people feel at ease with the procedure, and to ensure that their application has been treated in a just manner. Currently, ‘Strengthening Asylum’ is the only project in Cyprus that provides free legal services to asylum seekers and refugees. Our legal team provides services to persons seeking access to the asylum procedure up to the first instance appeal, before the Refugee Reviewing Authority. The project aims to assist as many beneficiaries as possible, and gives priority to vulnerable people including women, victims of torture, sexual, and gender-based violence. In Cyprus, legal aid is offered by the government only at the judicial review level, before the Supreme Court. No free legal advice or assistance is provided to asylum seekers at the first stages of their asylum application or the first instance appeal before the Refugee Reviewing Authority. Pro-bono legal work is not allowed under the Advocates Law and the majority of asylum seekers and refugees are not in the position to pay for the services of a private lawyer. It must be noted that NGO lawyers are not permitted under the Advocates Law to appear before the Courts of Justice, which includes the Supreme Court. For more details on the legal procedure please refer to our manual on our FAQs section. The services of our legal advisors team are necessary to ensure people’s proper access to the asylum procedures. In particular, we assist detained asylum seekers to submit their application for asylum, and we prepare well-reasoned appeals against negative decisions to asylum applications. We also help asylum seekers prepare and present legal aid submissions, in cases where systemic gaps result in flawed asylum decisions. The information that people give us, and the advice that we give, is highly confidential. If you call, please be prepared to answer detailed questions and to provide us with documents related to your status. If you do not speak English, it would be best if you have someone with you who can interpret otherwise we will provide you with an interpreter. Services provided by our legal team:

  • We assist asylum seekers, when facing obstacles, to submit asylum applications to the competent authorities. We provide information on the asylum procedure, the refugee status determination process, access to rights and compliance with obligations under the national refugee law
  • We prepare written interventions to the appropriate authorities on issues relating to the refugee status determination process, as well as to people’s access to their rights
  • We provide legal representation during the asylum process, including participation during the Refugee Status Determinations interviews
  • We prepare comprehensive and well argued appeals in well founded claims, particularly in the case of vulnerable persons such as victims of sexual and gender based violence, unaccompanied children, and victims of torture
  • We provide guidance to asylum seekers in relation to the judicial review process and prepare legal aid submissions in cases of legal flaws resulting from systemic gaps in the asylum process. We also refer cases to private lawyers with adequate knowledge on asylum matters
  • We facilitate people in undergoing the family reunification process
  • We refer people to appropriate psychological support teams when the need is identified
  • When dealing with vulnerable cases, we offer to accompany individuals to appointments and interviews with the public authorities.
  • We visit reception centres and detention facilities in an effort to monitor reception and detention conditions, and to identifying individuals in need of protection

Social Advice

Our social advisor provides guidance and support to seekers and refugees. For asylum seekers and refugees, life in Cyprus can often be a struggle accompanied by a series of problems posed by the asylum process and the beginning of life in a new country. People can feel helpless as they encounter obstacle after obstacle in their new everyday lives, such as finding a safe place to live, struggling with a new language, and finding a way to survive on very little money. Those who are granted protection in the country sometimes struggle to find work or continue their education. Our social advisor thus works holistically, providing advocacy, counseling and practical advice to the project’s beneficiaries. By working in close liaison with the social welfare services and other public authorities, the Social Advisor serves as powerful advocate for asylum seekers and refugees. Services provided by our Social Advisor:

  • Facilitates and advocates people’s access to their social rights. These include appropriate medical care, education arrangements, employment seeking, welfare benefits/allowances receipt, housing placement
  • Informs people about relevant laws and regulations
  • Provides counseling and assistance to beneficiaries on how to access integration rights, including access to language classes and vocational training
  • Refers and links people, when needed, to other governmental or non governmental services

Raising Public Awareness

Our team believes a fair and adequate asylum system ensures that: 1) All asylum seekers have access to high-quality legal advice at all stages of the asylum process 2) Prioritises the quality and sustainability of asylum decisions, rather than their speed 3) Is sensitive to the particular needs of vulnerable groups of people such as torture victims, unaccompanied minors, and women seeking asylum A fair and adequate system can be realised through sensible and practical reforms, and our team works to influence asylum policy across a range of areas. What we say is grounded in what we do. Our policy and campaigns work is directly based on our experience providing socio-legal advice to asylum seekers. We look to influence both government policy and public opinion, so that asylum seekers and refugees are treated fairly and Cyprus upholds its human rights obligations. Our research, policy consultations, and public campaigns all contribute to our team’s work, in addition to our advocacy with government officials, the media, and the public. Our Public Information Officer:

  • Seeks to increase public awareness on asylum issues through media activities and pubic information campaigns
  • Utilises opportunities to influence national policies, through interventions in parliament on legislative drafts, participation in the media, mobilisation of civil society, and cooperation with other organisations involved in public awareness
  • Seeks to foster community relationships between Cypriots, asylum seekers, and refugees, through the organisation of public events and activities
  • Works closely with refugees and asylum seekers, encouraging the development of empowered groups and communities
  • Channels European and international developments on asylum and refugee issues to the public in Cyprus, through the use of social media
  • Assists in the efforts to make the project run sustainably

Activities

  • Psychological support for torture victims

We are collaborating with the Centre for Training, Therapy & Research in an effort to offer support to victims of torture. Our collaboration has been a reaction to the fact that at present there is no free psychological support provided by the state authorities to victims of torture. In the last years, several projects offering such services run by NGOs have been terminated and as a result many people who were receiving psychological support have been abruptly left without any support. KESY offers free psychological support to victims of torture referred by the Future Worlds Center team. Students completing the practicum of the Master’s in Clinical Psychology, who are in turn supervised by experienced professionals, are offering these services.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day 2014, Future Worlds Center, in cooperation with Cypriot and Refugee communities, local civil society organizations, and the UNHCR representation in Cyprus, organized the first annual Cross Cultural Street Festival on 18 June, 2014 in Faneromeni square, old Nicosia.

  • World Refugee Day 2015

On June 17th, at Phaneromeni Sq Nicosia, we are organizing a street festival in cooperation with Refugee communities. More details to come…

Workshops

To celebrate World Refugee Day, the Future Worlds Center’s “Strengthening Asylum in Cyprus” Team in collaboration with the Cyprus Family Planning Association hosted two interactive workshops on sexual health and contraception methods. These workshops were organized for the benefit of women asylum seekers and refugees in Cyprus.

Period: 1 Jan 2015 – 31 Dec 2015

Link: http://futureworlds.eu/wiki/Strengthening_Asylum

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