Civil Society in the Spotlight: Corina Drousiotou from the Cyprus Refugee Council

Civil Society in the Spotlight: Corina Drousiotou from the Cyprus Refugee Council

EPIM’s Civil Society in the Spotlight series seeks to highlight the work of our partners- people and organisations who are helping build inclusive communities and develop humane and sustainable responses to migration in Europe.

In this Civil Society in the Spotlight interview, we hear from Corina Drousiotou — a Project Coordinator and Senior Legal Advisor for the Cyprus Refugee Council (CyRC). 

Can you tell us about yourself? 

I completed my studies in law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and pursued a postgraduate degree in European and International Law at the University of Leicester, UK. Since 2005, I have been actively involved in Human Rights Law, particularly focusing on the field of asylum. From 2006 to 2017, I worked as a legal advisor for the NGO Future Worlds Center and from 2009, as Head of the Humanitarian Affairs Unit, I coordinated all the asylum-related programs. In 2018 I joined the Cyprus Refugee Council as Program Coordinator and Senior Legal Officer.

Over the years, I have gained extensive experience in handling asylum cases, specialising in those involving victims of torture and gender-based violence. I’ve also dealt with matters related to immigration detention and alternatives to detention. Furthermore, I am also the primary contributor to the AIDA Report on Cyprus.


EPIM has supported your alternatives to detention (ATD) work since 2015 – how has it evolved since then? 

From 2015 to 2017, EPIM funded the Project “Promoting and Establishing Alternatives to Immigration Detention in Cyprus”. This was a research-based project which focused on the situation of detention in Cyprus. Its research methods included interviewing representatives from authorities, detainees and non-state actors (UNHCR) and independent state officers (a child commissioner and an ombudsman). The main purpose was to establish whether alternatives to detention (ATDs), namely through case management (CM), provision as specified by the Community Assessment and Placement (CAP) model, were relevant to Cyprus.

With that research, CyRC proposed and received funding for our first pilot project on ATDs which ran from 2017 to 2019  to promote the adoption of ATDs in Cyrus and ensure detention is a last resort. Activities included selecting cases that were in detention or at risk of being detained, carrying out screenings, and assessment in order to offer CM. 

The pilot was based on a revised CAP model developed by the International Detention Coalition (IDC). Throughout, CyRC advocated, both on national and regional levels, the benefits of CM to influence the authorities to adopt more humane, efficient and less coercive measures, rather than detention. Another component was delivering building capacities for CSOs and first line officers about how to screen, assess and CM.

From 2019 to 2021 and 2022 to 2023, we received two more rounds of funding, both of which were used to implement similar activities and programmes. 

Thanks to these Projects, CyRC has been able to access detention facilities, including the main DC, central prison and police holding cells. Moreover, it created and helped develop a strong relationship with authorities, such as the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD), who approached CyRC in mid-2020 with the purpose of exploring pathways towards effective collaboration. 

By the end of 2020, the CRMD officially appointed an ATD officer who is required to conduct assessments of cases of persons in detention and submit recommendations to be decided by the CRMD’s director, on whether a person is eligible to be released on ATD or not. Since then, the pilot case management has maintained close communication with the ATD officer providing information on individual cases, on the case management model used by CyRC, and discussing ideas regarding the effective implementation of ATD in Cyprus.   

The Cyprus Refugee Council team 


Can you tell us more about CyRC’s holistic case management-based approach as a form of ATD and why it is important? 

The pilot is based on the Revised Community Assessment and Placement (CAP) model, developed by the International Detention Coalition (IDC). CyRC has previous experience in implementing a case management model for torture survivors, which emphasises the importance of a holistic approach (access to legal, social, psychological and material support); so, this model was not only familiar to our work but also ideal to how we conducted case management.

A vulnerability screening and individualised assessment phase is conducted prior to case management to collect all the information regarding the potential beneficiary’s background (social history, immigration history, compliance indicators, vulnerabilities, etc). Through this process, we can assess the needs of individuals, as well as their potential compatibility to be inducted in the case management procedure.

CyRC has provided holistic case management in the community to migrants in or at risk of detention who are asylum seekers, rejected asylum seekers, irregular third country nationals and “non-removables”. It showed us that case management could promote and encourage trust, respect human rights and increase opportunities towards timely and fair case resolution, following individualised screening and assessment.  

Case management is an ongoing process in which the case manager acts as a facilitator between the individual and the state authorities, bridging the communication gap between the two. The main purpose of case management is to reach fair and timely case resolution, while ensuring the humane treatment of each person. Building trust between the individual, the case manager and the state authorities is fundamental in successful case management. 

Furthermore, through case management individuals receive sufficient information about the immigration process to be able to explore all available options, so  they can fully engage and remain in contact with state authorities in compliance with procedures. 


This initiative opened collaboration with the Civil Registry and Migration Department in Cyprus. What is your vision for more efficient and meaningful public-private partnerships in this area? 

Our vision for more efficient and meaningful public-private partnerships is direct and transparent communication between the two parties and an understanding of each other’s roles. State authorities should recognise that CSOs are not here to replace and do the work of the state. Rather, CSOs’ roles should be that of a mediator, a trust-worthy figure, who has direct contact with the community and can get through to its beneficiaries in a more effective and humane manner than authorities.

This relationship should be balanced and equal, – not hierarchical. State authorities and CSOs should work together and collaborate, rather than the state “instruct” CSOs what to do; and of course, this work and partnership should be aligned with the goals and framework that both parties have mutually set out.

How does this fieldwork inform CyRC’s advocacy efforts? 

CyRC uses an evidence-based advocacy strategy based on the fieldwork. In practice, this “advocacy by doing” provides examples of how the authorities can address such cases. This includes practical solutions and recommendations based on real life examples as evidence which, in turn, make it harder for the authorities to dismiss.

Through the pilot, CyRC was able to build expertise on ATDs, specifically on case management, and has become a credible source of information regarding related issues. This expertise has attracted the attention of  the CRMD which approached CyRC several times on the basis of our work on ATDs.

Our collaboration with international organisations, such as the European ATD Network and IDC has given  CyRC the opportunity to work on a regional level and exchange knowledge and good practices with other organisations in the EU.  These relationships have positively affected the way CyRC is perceived by public bodies, who consequently have become more obliged to involve us at events, such as workshops related to ATD issues; thus, enhancing our impact.