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12° Nicosia,
19 June, 2024
 
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US report: Harsh conditions in Cyprus prisons

The US State Department's Human Rights in Cyprus 2022 report highlights significant human rights issues in Cyprus.

The US State Department's Human Rights in Cyprus 2022 report highlights significant human rights issues in Cyprus. The report states that there were credible reports of harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers, particularly for asylum seekers. The government reportedly took some steps to investigate, prosecute and punish officials accused of human rights abuses and acts of corruption, although there were limited cases of impunity. The report also notes credible reports of severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media in the occupied territories. Overcrowding remains a problem in the Cyprus Prisons Department, with the capacity being 543 and the maximum number of prisoners during the year being 998. The report also mentions the death of Turkish Cypriot prisoner Tansu Cidan in his cell, with eleven inmates being arrested in connection with the killing and six prison guards being suspended pending investigation.

Regarding the Pournara migrant reception center, the US State Department's Human Rights in Cyprus 2022 report notes that the UNHCR has described the center, designed to house up to 1,000 new arrivals for 72 hours before relocation to more permanent accommodation, as a "de facto detention center" for asylum seekers. The center housed more than 3,000 asylum seekers in December, according to NGO reports. The center's population included approximately 270 unaccompanied minors between the ages of 15 and 18, with up to 15 unaccompanied minors housed in each room, according to the government. The report also states that due to a significant increase in asylum applications during the year and long delays in processing applications, 29,715 asylum applications were pending by the end of December. The report also refers to allegations by NGOs and the media that staff at the Pournara reception center and the police subjected asylum seekers and refugees to physical and verbal abuse. Migrants continued to face significant barriers to securing housing while in Pournara.

Report on the Turkish-occupied side

The US State Department's Human Rights in Cyprus 2022 report highlights significant human rights issues in the Turkish-held northern part of Cyprus. The report notes that the United States does not recognize the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus", nor any other country, except Turkey. Major human rights issues included credible reports of severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the media, including defamation "laws", forced repatriation of asylum seekers, serious acts of "government" corruption, lack of investigation and accountability for violence due to gender, crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of ethnic and racial minorities, including foreign domestic workers and international students, and human trafficking.

The "authorities" took some steps to investigate "officials" following allegations of human rights abuses and corruption, but there were indications of widespread impunity. Conditions in prisons and detention centers fell short of international standards in several areas, including overcrowding, sanitation, medical care, heating and access to food. The report also mentions the arrest of the Greek Cypriot Andreas Soutzis, who was reportedly sentenced to one month in prison for allegedly photographing a prohibited military zone. Soutzis was released in October and the Turkish Cypriots banned him from entering the occupied territories. There were also reports of charges being filed against people with alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen and his movement. The report also states that there were reports that the "police" subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by the Turkish Cypriot authorities to physical surveillance including patrols and interrogations. Greek Cypriot and Maronite residents reported that the "police" asked them to provide information about their communities and activities.

[With information from CNA]

TAGS
Cyprus  |  refugees  |  asylum

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