Cyprus – Supreme Court rules on lawfulness of detention of Georgian asylum applicant

Thursday, January 24, 2019

On 24 January, the Supreme Court of Cyprus ruled on the appeal of a Georgian national against the duration of his detention since January 2018.

The applicant and his family had submitted an asylum claim when they arrived in Cyprus in 2003. The application was refused and they were ordered to leave the territory. His father was subsequently deported and his mother and sister departed voluntarily but the applicant remained. After he was arrested for robbery, he was placed in detention and immediately lodged a second application for international protection. He was subsequently found guilty and was designated as a “prohibited migrant” under national law. His detention continued as his asylum application was considered to have the purpose of delaying deportation proceedings.

The Supreme Court examined the lawfulness of the applicant’s detention taking into account the relevant jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights and the UK Supreme Court. It ruled that an initially lawfully imposed detention measure may be subsequently found to be unlawful if it is considered to be excessively lengthy. Despite the lack of precise time limits for detention in Cypriot law, the judge reiterated that detention measures must have the shortest possible duration – a guarantee that is also supported by the Cypriot Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Moreover, according to ECtHR and the Cypriot Supreme Court’s general jurisprudence, the length of detention depends on the facts of the case and is closely connected to the possibility of deportation if an asylum application is rejected. It further observed that the Cypriot authorities claim that the one-year delay in the examination of the applicant’s case is due to the exceptional backlog of work that the services are facing. The Court, however, stated that national law precludes administrative delays, which are not attributable to the detainee, from justifying the extension of detention. Lastly, the Court also examined the proportionality of the detention with regard to the possibility to impose measures alternative to detention. In this connection, it found that the need for alternative measures should have been re-examined once it became clear that the duration exceeded reasonable time limits.

Despite assurances that efforts were being made to ensure the prompt examination of the applicant’s asylum application, no concrete indications of time frames were given by the authorities. Under these circumstances, the Court ruled that the continuation of the applicant’s detention is in violation of the ECHR and domestic law and ordered his immediate release.

Based on an unofficial translation by the ELENA Weekly Legal Update. Many thanks to Corina Drousiotou, ELENA Coordinator for Cyprus, for bringing this case to our attention.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE.