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20 April, 2024
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ECHR asks Cyprus to explain boat incidents

Letter from European Court of Human Rights in Cypriot appeal case brings up Lebanon pushbacks


The European Court of Human Rights has asked the government of the Republic of Cyprus to answer questions concerning recent refoulement of undocumented travelers at sea, in response to a request of an interim measure from a local attorney handling another case.

A Cypriot attorney handling a case in Cyprus, who filed for an interim measure, received on Wednesday a letter from the ECHR, saying a duty judge had decided to suspend the examination of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court until receipt of information from the Cypriot government. 

Knews obtained a copy of the ECHR that listed five questions, asking the government of the Republic of Cyprus to submit requested information by 4pm Cypriot time

While it was understood that the specific case involved an unnamed foreign national who was appealing a deportation order or procedure in the Republic of Cyprus, it also emerged that ECHR questions towards the Cypriot government were directly linked to reports that the state’s coast guard blocked undocumented travelers on boats, including Syrian refugees, and sent them back to Lebanon with marine police escort.

KISA director Doros Polykarpou wrote on his personal Facebook page that the ECHR intervened “in the illegal refoulement of refugees to Lebanon from the Cyprus Government,” adding his human rights organization in cooperation with a law office had been in contact with relatives of refugees on the blocked boats.

“The Court reacted swiftly and decided to ask the right questions to the Government of Cyprus which are indicative also of the potential outcome of the case,” Polykarpou wrote.

Knews has seen a copy of the ECHR letter that listed five questions, asking the government of the Republic of Cyprus to submit requested information by Wednesday 4pm Cypriot time under Rule 54 § 2 (a).

Information requested

  1. Did the vessel in which the applicants were travelling request to be allowed into Cypriot ports?
  2. Have the applicants been transferred on a ship by the Cypriot coastguard for their return to Lebanon?
  3. What are the applicants’ current whereabouts?
  4. Has the State afforded the applicants with possible means of seeking admission to the national territory for the purpose of seeking international protection?
  5. If the applicants have been returned to Lebanon, is it open to the applicants to apply for international protection at the Cypriot diplomatic and consular representations in Lebanon?

Cypriot interior ministry officials denied reports that law enforcement agents blocked refugees from having access to shore where they could potentially fie for asylum.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris and other officials have maintained that passengers on a number of boats over the last few days were Lebanese nationals described as “economic migrants,” saying no asylum laws were violated.

But Polykarpou told Knews “there were Syrian refugees from Lebanon,” adding that they were wrongly depicted as Lebanese migrants.

KISA has accused the Cypriot government of employing legal hurdles to block access to a fair adjudication of a n asylum application.

The NGO has also criticized the government of turning the Pournara camp, initially designed as a temporary welcoming and processing migrant centre, into a “army-style camp” with poor living conditions.

Added to the list, KISA also criticized the government for adopting “unlawful blocks and pushback” practices towards asylum seekers.

Cyprus  |  migration  |  Syria  |  Lebanon  |  refugee  |  refoulement  |  KISA  |  Polykaropu  |  Nouris  |  interior ministry  |  pushback  |  boats

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