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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid