Non-EU citizens face more obstacles than opportunities for integration in Cyprus, whose policies barely go halfway to promote integration. Cyprus scores 41 on the 100-point MIPEX Scale, 9 points below the international average (50/100).
Cyprus’s approach to integration is categorised by MIPEX as “Immigration without Integration” because its policies still do not reflect Cyprus’ reality as a country of immigration. Non-EU immigrants are denied many basic rights and opportunities and face some uncertainty about their long-term future in Cyprus. They face significant obstacles to participate in many areas of life, from the labour market to family life, education, health, and politics.
A country’s approach to integration matters because policies influence whether or not integration works as a two-way process. The way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Cyprus’s current policies encourage the public to see immigrants as their subordinates and as strangers rather than as equals, neighbours or potential citizens.
Cyprus still needs to invest in basic rights, equal opportunities and long-term security, which are below average when compared to most MIPEX countries. In contrast, other new destination countries are following international reform trends and making these improvements (e.g. Czechia and Greece).
Cyprus’s integration policies are below average for the EU, although its policies are generally similar to other Central and Southeastern European countries. In contrast, integration policies are more developed in Greece and in the other countries in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Labour market mobility: Slightly unfavourable: This is a major weakness in Cyprus, which is one of the most unfavourable MIPEX countries. Cyprus critically restricts non-EU citizens' access to the labour market, meaning they can almost never change jobs and face major legal and high language barriers to work in other sectors, like self-employment or the public sector. Non-EU residents still lack general and targeted support to improve their situation, and temporary residents do not get any access to social security and assistance.
- Family reunification: Slightly unfavourable: Separated families are excluded, deterred or rejected under Cyprus' family reunification policy. Long residence requirements, restrictions for dependent relatives, demanding economic requirements and an insecure process and status make Cyprus’s policies among the most restrictive amongst MIPEX countries.
- Education: Slightly unfavourable: All pupils, regardless of status, should be allowed to access all types of schools, receive ongoing language support and more targeted support and trained teachers in schools. In 2017, the Ministry of Education prepared a general guide on migrant education in a number of different languages However, schools in Cyprus are not used as spaces for social integration for all pupils to learn how to live in a diverse society.
- Health: Slightly unfavourable: Migrant health policies are under-developed in Cyprus, much like other Southeastern European countries. The health system provides migrants with basic health information through various means, but little else, as health services and policies are barely responsive to their specific access/health needs. Despite improvements under the new General National Health System in 2019, legal residents, asylum seekers and the undocumented all face conditions and practical obstacles to access the health system, although attached to specific conditions (e.g., insufficient financial means).
- Political participation: Slightly unfavourable: Non-EU residents living in Cyprus cannot participate in most parts of public life. Little meaningful dialogue can take place in the absence of voting rights, more regular consultation and structural support for immigrant-led associations.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: Cyprus' policies are among some of the most restrictive in the EU, with a path to long-term residence that excludes many ‘de facto’ settled residents and deters ordinary immigrants from investing in integration and obtaining the secure and equal status to make Cyprus their home (see instead Italy, Portugal or Spain).
- Access to nationality: Halfway favourable: While ordinary immigrants can apply for dual nationality after 5 to 7 years, they receive little support to pass the costly and highly discretionary procedure. Their children born or educated in Cyprus are treated like foreigners, without any special entitlement to citizenship (see instead Portugal or Greece).
- Anti-discrimination: Slightly favourable: Cyprus’ Ombudsman and enforcement mechanisms have traditionally been accessible to the large number of potential ethnic, racial and religious discrimination. Still Cyprus' anti-discrimination policies are one of the lowest scoring in the EU as its laws may be too weak and poorly defined for victims to find justice.