UNHCR Cyprus issues a report with the challenges faced by refugees in their integration process in Cyprus and suggests ways to ensure effective integration

Employment is a key factor in the refugee integration process.
© UNHCR/Johan Bävman

Helping refugees integrate into the economic, social and cultural fabric of the host society is one of UNHCR’s primary aim in Cyprus, as elsewhere in the European Union.

The report  “Towards a Comprehensive Refugee Integration Strategy for Cyprus” is the outcome of extensive consultations within a multi-stakeholder Integration Task Force over a twelve-month period. Given UNHCR’s role in promoting integration as one of the durable solutions to the problems of refugees, the Office in Cyprus took the initiative in establishing and leading a multi-stakeholder Task Force to help formulate specific recommendations for the design and implementation of a national integration plan. The present Report is based to a great extent on the extensive consultations and exchanges within the Task Force and refugees over a one-year period.

The Report provides an overview of the legislative and policy framework for refugee integration in Cyprus within the Common European Asylum System and gives a brief account of what has been achieved so far, as well as the remaining barriers. But the Report’s central aim and focus is to set out the framework of a comprehensive refugee integration strategy for Cyprus with proposed positive actions with respect to four key facilitators of integration: employment and skills development, education, access to basic services, and social inclusion and civic engagement.

“The Report is not a work of academic research, but primarily a call to action for more effective ways to facilitate the integration of refugees,” Mr. Damtew Dessalegne, UNHCR Representative said in the forward of the report. “I hope that the institutions to which the Report is directed – Government ministries/departments, public bodies, the business sector, nongovernmental organizations, faith-based groups, cultural and sporting organizations as well as local and refugee community groups – will all find in it food for thought.”

With significant numbers of people afforded refugee or subsidiary protection status in Cyprus in recent years, greater assistance and support to help them integrate has become more apparent. While efforts have been made to implement some small scale integration projects, both general and refugee-specific, under the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) since 2014, a comprehensive national integration plan for refugee integration is lacking.

The Task Force brought together representatives from the Government, the refugee community, UNHCR, non-governmental organizations, academia and the business sector. Based on the inputs of the Task Force and its own research and analysis, UNHCR has set out in this Report a set of recommendations for the design and implementation of a national integration plan for consideration by the Government, with a particular focus in four inter-related areas: employment, education and vocational training, access to basic services, and social inclusion and civic engagement.