Report by Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for human rights, following his visit to Cyprus (7 to 11 December 2015)
“Despite some progress made in immigration law and policy, Cyprus’ asylum system still suffers from a number of shortcomings that need to be urgently redressed”, said Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, while releasing a report based on his visit to Cyprus carried out from 7 to 11 December 2015. The report focuses on the human rights of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants and on the impact of the economic crisis on vulnerable social groups.
The report mentions the contribution of Future Worlds Center and references the reports drafted by the organization as a source of data and information on relevant developments. The head of the Humanitarian Affairs Unit of FWC, Corina Drousiotou, also participated in the Commissioner’s meetings.
While welcoming some positive developments, such as the increase of refugee status recognition rates and the end of the practice of detaining Syrian asylum seekers, the Commissioner recommends remedying the long-standing problems of the asylum system, including lengthy procedures, limited access to legal aid and the risk of deportation before the final determination of asylum claims.
“Cyprus must end the practice of detaining migrants, including asylum seekers, for whom there is no reasonable prospect of deportation.” The Commissioner also calls on Cyprus to improve the identification procedure of particularly vulnerable migrants, such as unaccompanied children.
Concerned about the existence of many obstacles to migrants’ integration, the Commissioner invites Cyprus to invest more in social cohesion and integration of migrants by enhancing, in particular, their access to education, employment, health services and political participation. “In this context, it is also crucial to effectively fight and sanction hate speech and other forms of hate crime targeting migrants. Cyprus should also prevent statelessness and improve migrants’ access to citizenship”.
Although he welcomes Cyprus’ efforts and progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings.
Lastly, the Commissioner recommends paying more attention to the impact that the economic crisis has on large strata of society, in particular on children, women, older persons, single-parent households and migrant families. “The implementation of the Guaranteed Minimum Income scheme should be improved and more effective measures are needed to reverse the worrying increase in child poverty. According to a recent report by Future Worlds Centre, it is all the more difficult for asylum seekers to be included in public aid programmes following a 2013 legislative amendment that led to them receiving nearly 50% less in financial assistance than nationals”.