News / Europe

Greek Cypriot Government Accused of Mistreating Migrants

x
NICOSIA, Cyprus - A new report from the human rights group Amnesty International claims that hundreds of migrants fleeing persecution and conflict who arrive in Cyprus are locked up by authorities in violation of international law.

The report says the internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government is responsible for holding hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers for months and even years in poor conditions, without adequate medical care or access to free legal aid, in violation of their basic rights.   

Jezerca Tigani, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director at Amnesty International, told VOA that Cyprus should urgently review its laws governing the detention of migrants to make sure they conform to policies elsewhere in the European Union.   

"Detention is being used in Cyprus as a tool to regulate migration, which means the Cypriot authorities are violating international and European law when they detain illegal migrants without examining any alternative measures, or without demonstrating that their detention is indeed necessary," said Tigani.

The Amnesty report comes just as Cyprus is set to assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union in July.

Amnesty also claims that several dozen Syrians are being treated like criminals and held at detention centers, including some who claim to be escaping the bloodshed in their home country. Tigani says the Syrians should not be in detention.  

"Many Syrians were being detained for months and months in the detention centers although there was an order by Cypriot authorities not to deport any Syrians back to Syria because of the situation in the country," said Tigani. "It is just shocking to see why the Syrians were being detained when actually they are not to be deported back to Syria in the current situation. Unfortunately, even the authorities do not understand that the detention should only be linked to the deportation."

Doros Polycarpou from the immigrant support group KISA told VOA he too is perplexed as to why the Syrians are still in detention.

"This is an un-understandable, a completely un-understandable situation," said Doros. "There is a violation of international law and refugee law itself."

Last week, Tigani visited some of those detained at Nicosia's main prison.  She says the prison, which is over 130 years-old, is hot, overcrowded and filthy with migrants being held together with convicted criminals.

"The detention conditions are really awful and very overcrowded - many people are in the same cells, the smells are absolutely terrible inside the cells and the detainees have no access to fresh air outside or to exercise, you can see how the detention in these kind of conditions has a very bad [effect]," said Tigani. "It affects the detainees, it affects their mental health, but also their physical health and they have very little access, if all to any doctors."

In response to the allegations, the Cypriot Government EU Presidency Spokesman Nicos Christdoulides says that Cyprus welcomed the Amnesty report as an opportunity that will allow for “fruitful consultations.” But he stressed that Cyprus is adhering to its international obligations.

"In the case where an asylum seeker is detained, the examination of his application is prioritized while it is ensured that he has full access to his rights, provided for by the refugee law," said Christdoulides.

Christdoulides says the government will soon open a new detention facility designed especially for migrants and asylum seekers.    

"To solve the problem the government of Cyprus has already set up a new detention facility, which is expected to operate soon and which is designed only for immigration purposes," said Christdoulides.

Amnesty International says however it has not seen any substantial improvement in the treatment of asylum seekers by Greek Cypriot authorities, despite repeated calls for conditions to change over the past decade.  

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkey invaded after a coup by Greek Cypriot supporters of a union with Greece.

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs