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

    No More Space Race for US, Rivalry Gives Way to Collaboration

    What began as a struggle for dominance in space between two world powers has changed entirely to one of joint efforts

    Beijing Warns Critics Over South China Sea Dispute

    Official warns critics that the more they challenge China's position regarding disputed territories in one of world’s busiest waterways, the more it will push back

    Move Over Millennials, Here Comes iGeneration

    How the first generation to be born, almost literally, with a smartphone in hand, might change America

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020i
    X
    Ramon Taylor
    May 05, 2016 10:05 PM
    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Image Recognition Market Seen Doubling by 2020

    From auto tagging on Facebook to self-driving cars, image recognition technology as it exists today is still in its beginning phases, experts say — and will soon change the way users and corporations interact with the physical world. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
    Video

    Video Child Labor in Afghanistan Remains a Problem

    With war still raging in Afghanistan, the country also faces the problem of child labor as families put their school-age children to work to help make ends meet. But, thanks to VOA's Afghan Service, two families whose children had been working in a brick-making factory - to earn their livings and pay off family debts - now have a new lease on life. Zabihullah Ghazi reports.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora