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Amnesty International, asylum seekers, detention

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL V. MINISTRY OF INTERIOR

The Cypriot state dismisses the findings of Amnesty’s report on Cyprus

The recent response of the Ministry of Interior to Amnesty International’s report on the detention of migrants in Cyprus is a glaring example of why certain mentalities in Cyprus will never change, whether this is related to migrants or us as Cypriots. If we do not have the ability to acknowledge the gaps and inadequacies of our system but instead we choose to see things running smoothly, then we can never hope for positive changes that will bring about progress and improvement in the way our system is run.

In its response to AI’s report the Ministry of Interior stated “the criticism and the related reference of Amnesty International is considered to be an opportunity, which will allow for a fruitful consultation to take place”. Nevertheless the Ministry referred to the findings of the report as “accusations” and then discarded them. It did not seem to be appeased by the fact that Amnesty International is an organisation with immense expertise in human rights, whose findings are reliable enough to be used by international and national courts.

The findings of the AI report are based on thorough research carried out by experts in the field who have visited the various detention centres in Cyprus, talked to prisoners, interviewed government officials and nongovernmental organisations, and cross-checked the findings before publishing the final report. It should be noted that Amnesty International follows the same research procedure throughout its fieldwork around the world, making its reports reliable and credible sources of information.

Cyprus is not the only country that comes across cases of asylum, immigration, and illegal stay. On the contrary, these are challenges that are prominent in most countries of the Western world. Amnesty’s report did not dispute the fact that many detainees were residing in Cyprus without any valid documentation prior to their detention, but examined instead whether Cyprus had examined the alternatives to detention that are implemented in other countries. These alternatives are not only a more humane practice but can also prove to be less cumbersome for a state’s finances. In addition, the AI report examined the extent to which court orders are being applied and conditions of detention conform to international standards; if detainees are informed about the reasons for their detention and if they have access to legal aid.

We strongly believe that instead of dismissing the findings of the AI report, the Ministry of Interior should have focused on finding effective ways to bring about fundamental changes to the status quo, particularly in view of the Cyprus EU Presidency. For a start, the Ministry could have acknowledged that there are some fundamental gaps that need to be bridged and some deficiencies in the current procedures that Cyprus could have avoided, or it could have initiated its own transparent investigation into the issues that AI has raised. Sadly, the Ministry has chosen to follow the usual Cypriot practice, that of sweeping everything that matters under the carpet and claiming that Amnesty International is unreliable.

You can read the full report of Amnesty International on Cyprus http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR17/001/2012/en/36f06387-9ce6-43df-9734-a4550fa413d6/eur170012012en.pdf and Kathimerini’s article on the Ministry’s press release in Kathimerini. http://www.kathimerini.com.cy/index.php?pageaction=kat&modid=1&artid=94646.

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