Hundreds of the men and women who flee each year to Cyprus in search of refuge and asylum from war, persecution and poverty are locked away by the island’s authorities in breach of their international obligations, Amnesty International said in a new report.
‘"Detention should not be a tool for regulating migration. Cypriot authorities are wilfully violating International and European Union law when they detain irregular migrants without examining alternative measures and demonstrating that their detention is indeed necessary,” said Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“Instead it is routine to deprive them of their liberty, for months or years, not because they have committed some crime but simply to effect their deportation and even in cases where their deportation is impossible.”
Most are detained for months and even for years, often in poor conditions without access to adequate medical care and usually unable to challenge the lawfulness of their detention due to the paucity of free legal aid. In many cases, the Cypriot authorities refuse to free people even in the case of a Supreme Court ordering their release.
Revisiting Blocks 9 and 10 of Nicosia Central Prison and Lakatamia detention centre in mid-June 2012 an Amnesty International delegation did not witness any substantial improvement in the overcrowded unhygienic conditions further exacerbated by the summer heat. Some asylum-seekers remain in detetention throughout the period where their applications are examined. Amnesty International is aware of cases where asylum-seekers were deported while their case was pending before the Supreme Court.
‘’While they wait for a decision on their asylum application, asylum-seekers are in an extremely vulnerable position and should not be subject to immigration detention except in the most exceptional circumstances as prescribed by international and regional law and standards,’’ said Giorgos Kosmopoulos
Each decision to detain should be automatically and regularly reviewed as to its lawfulness, necessity and proportionality by a court or similar competent independent and impartial body, accompanied by the adequate provision of legal aid.
As this does not happen, hundreds of people are unnecessarily and therefore unlawfully deprived of their liberty on months end.
Every year, hundreds of people, fleeing poverty or war and persecution, are deprived of their liberty for immigration purposes in Cyprus. Due to limited or no access to legal aid, many are unable to challenge the lawfulness of their detention. Even in cases where the Supreme Court rules the detention unlawful, many continue to be held. This briefing documents the shortcomings in Cypriot law and its application, and calls on the authorities to take prompt action to fully respect the right to liberty of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers.