The Republic of Cyprus says it is getting ready to deport 17 undocumented migrants suspected of having ties to foreign terrorists, but proceedings could be delayed due to ongoing pandemic and other legal issues.
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Interior Minister Nikos Nouris says Cyprus is ready to deport 17 suspected terrorists, who are currently being held at Kofinou migrant facility in Larnaca. He told a local news programme on Monday evening that the men were "confirmed wanted men" for taking part in terrorist organisations and having links to ISIS.
The Associated Press on Tuesday cited an exclusive government statement, saying the state has gathered intelligence from security agencies and law enforcement authorities, including Europol and Interpol, suggesting that “the men may have either been implicated in terror activities or belong to extremist groups.”
Cyprus is expected to deport the adult males after commercial air traffic is restored in the country, following ease of lockdown restrictions on the island including a ban on air travel expected to be lifted June 8.
Defence attorneys have challenged state prosecutors on appeal, arguing evidence presented in lower courts was later missing, with prosecutors saying documents were being utilized in other cases
But there could be legal obstacles along the way for the state, as deportation proceedings have been challenged in the past. Defence attorneys have challenged state prosecutors on appeal, arguing in one case that evidence presented in a lower court was later missing from the file, with prosecutors saying documents were being utilized in other cases.
Back in February, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Cyprus ordered an asylum seeker released from detention, after the state refused to provide evidence that reportedly showed he was being held on national security grounds and suspicion of terrorism.
The suspected terrorist, a Moroccan national who arrived in December 2018 and filed for asylum in January 2019, was found to have been falsely detained for over a year by Cypriot authorities after he had filed a second appeal against his detention.
The government in Cyprus has been scrambling to find ways to cope with the influx of migrants and refugees, including economic migrants who travel to the island via Turkey according to Nouris.
The interior minister, who has been criticized for taking a tough stance on migration, clarified recently that the state would not send back those whose lives may be in danger.
But Nouris, who has been trying to streamline the adjudication process at the Migration office, has defended a government policy to detain asylum seekers. An ombudsman report has drawn attention to the detention policy, calling on the government to abstain from taking measures that go beyond the temporary scope and law of necessity.
Critics also have questioned the rounding up of asylum seekers who either have pending cases or are in the process of filing, with reports saying all sorts of refugees and undocumented migrants end up being transferred to Pournara camp in Kokkinotrimithia, currently under lockdown after it was declared a “local infected area.”
The minister insists that until their cases are adjudicated, asylum applicants shall remain at a specific location, but he stopped short of describing it as detention.
“If you don’t have asylum applicants confined somewhere, and if their applications are turned down, unfortunately you cannot locate them,” Nouris has said.