Cypriot Authorities Must End Unlawful Detention of Migrants

Press Release
June 19, 2012

Cypriot Authorities Must End Unlawful Detention of Migrants

Human Rights Organization Examines Cyprus Judicial Practices in Latest Report

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssingh@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579, @spksingh

(Washington, D.C.) – Amnesty International today released its latest report, Punishment without a Crime: Detention of migrants and asylum-seekers in Cyprus, calling on Cypriot authorities to halt the detention of migrants and to bring the country’s legislation in line with international standards.

Each year, hundreds of the men and women who flee to Cyprus in search of refuge from war, persecution and poverty are locked away without cause – a violation of Cypriot authorities' international obligations. In the new report, Amnesty International examines the deficiencies in Cypriot law and practice that bring about these human rights violations.

"Detention should not be a tool for regulating migration," said Jezerca Tigani, Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia deputy program director. "Cypriot authorities are willfully violating international and E.U. law when they detain irregular migrants without examining alternative measures and demonstrating that their detention is indeed necessary."

Most of these migrants are detained for months or even years in poor conditions and without access to adequate medical care or legal counsel. In many cases, Cypriot authorities have refused to free detainees despite its Supreme Court rulings ordering their release.

Revisiting blocks 9 and 10 of Nicosia Central Prison and Lakatamia detention center in mid-June 2012, an Amnesty International delegation did not witness any substantial improvement in the overcrowded and unhygienic conditions further exacerbated by the summer heat.

"While they wait for a decision on their asylum application, migrants are in an extremely vulnerable position," concluded Tigani. "They should not be subject to immigration detention, except in the most exceptional circumstances as prescribed by international and regional law and standards."

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.