News / Europe

Greek Cypriot Government Accused of Mistreating Migrants

x
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Turkish Law Gives Spy Agency Controversial Powers

Parliament approves legislation to bolster powers of intelligence service, which government claims is necessary to modernize and deal with new threats Turkey faces More

Video Face of American Farmer Changing

Average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Face of American Farmer is Changingi
X
Mike Osborne
April 18, 2014
The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid