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20 July, 2019
 
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Somali women react to social services video

Social welfare office in the hot seat for video with security guard manhandling female applicant

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A group of women from Somalia are speaking out against treatment from state officials, just days after a video surfaced online showing a female refugee being forcefully removed from a social welfare office.

A refugee applicant from Somalia went to the Social Welfare office in Larnaca on Wednesday where she asked to speak with the administrator who was handling her case, according to KISA, a human rights advocate organisation.

According to KISA, the woman arrived in Cyprus as an unaccompanied minor and has been waiting on her pending application for international protection status. The applicant, who was recently facing the threat of eviction due to shortage of money, was trying to speak with a social services administrator regarding the little money she was receiving from food stamps while her rent had not been paid for March.

The Somali applicant was denied the request to speak with an administrator and was asked to leave, with the receptionist at the welfare office allegedly throwing the woman’s ID card on the floor.

“When the woman complained, the person at the reception called on the security guard, who approached her and grabbed her by the throat in order to remove her” KISA said.

A video that was recorded on a mobile phone and surfaced online showed a male security guard using force to remove the refugee from the welfare office. The woman is seen reacting by throwing her purse at him with the man grabbing her by the neck and pushing the woman out of the office as she was heard screaming.

The Somali woman visited the Emergency Room the following day where a doctor prescribed her medication, with KISA footing the bill according to the statement.

But when the refugee went to the Larnaca central police station to file a complaint, around 4pm on the day of the incident, she was told by a female police officer that it was the woman’s fault since she had thrown her wallet at the guard, according to the KISA statement.

KISA says police didn't allow the woman to file a complaint, while police told Knews she didn't want to go to court but only wished for the guard to be reprimanded

The woman was also told that the attack “was reasonable because [the security guard] is attacked on a daily basis and has the right to defend himself,” KISA said, adding that the police officer did not allow the woman to file her complaint.

Police could only confirm with Knews that a woman had gone to the station to tell officers orally what had happened, adding that she did not wish to take the matter to court but simply wanted the guard to be reprimanded.

According to Philenews, a social welfare administrator said the office did not wish to retain the services of the security guard in question, who was said to have been a private contractor and not a state employee.

KISA says a meeting that the NGO had with a group of Somali women on Saturday focused on what the group called “institutional racism,” with last week’s case being the latest in a growing number of incidents involving Somali women.

The women from Somalia “reported that they systematically face institutional racism, gender violence and humiliating treatment because of their colour, their religion and the legal status of their residence, in pretty much all aspects of their lives,” KISA said.

Women point to baby case last month

Last month, the Somali father of a five-month-old baby was released from jail, after prosecutors dropped child abuse charges against him.

The case made headline news last month in media frenzy with rape allegations, after police detained the male suspect on suspicion of child abuse. His arrest was based on a doctor’s report from Makarios Children’s Hospital that said the baby girl had a broken hymen as well as after police questioned the mother, who admitted the baby was with her father while she was out of the house.

It later turned out that the infant had some swelling in the genital area. But statements made by the father and the mother flatly dismissing the allegations were deemed not credible by police, compared to the doctor who said he was certain the baby girl had been raped. Hospital administration later retracted the claim and prosecutors dropped the charges, further recommending state assistance for the entire family.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  Larnaca  |  social services  |  welfare  |  Somali  |  racism  |  police  |  guard  |  violence  |  human rights  |  state  |  KISA  |  migration  |  refugee  |  asylum  |  international protection  |  IPS

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