Cyprus: Stop treating migrants as criminals

Cyprus: Stop treating migrants as criminals 
(Brussels, 15 June 2012) Hundreds of the men and women who flee to Cyprus each year in search of refuge and asylum from war, persecution and poverty are being locked away by the island’s authorities in breach of their international obligations, Amnesty International has said in a new report. 
Punishment without a crime: Detention of migrants and asylum-seekers in Cyprus examines the deficiencies in Cypriot law and practice which result in the violation of the rights of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers. It calls on the Cypriot authorities to bring the country’s laws into line with international standards. 
‘’Detention shouldn’t be a tool for regulating migration. The Cypriot authorities are willfully violating international and European Union law by detaining irregular migrants without examining alternatives and demonstrating that their detention is indeed necessary,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.  “Instead, they’re routinely deprived of their liberty, for months or years, not because they have committed some crime but simply to bring about their deportation, even in cases where that’s impossible.” 
Most are detained in poor conditions without access to adequate medical care and are usually unable to challenge the lawfulness of their detention owing to the scarcity of free legal aid. The Cypriot authorities often refuse to free people even when the Supreme Court orders their release. 
In mid-June an Amnesty International delegation which revisited Nicosia Central Prison and Lakatamia saw no improvement in the overcrowded unhygienic conditions, which were exacerbated by the intense heat.
Some asylum-seekers are detained for the whole time that their applications are being examined. Some have been deported while their case awaited a ruling by the Supreme Court. Amnesty International has stressed that every decision to detain an irregular migrant or asylum-seeker should be automatically and regularly reviewed on its lawfulness, necessity and proportionality by a court or similar competent independent and impartial body, accompanied by adequate provision of legal aid. 
For more information please contact:
Peter Clarke 
Media & Communications Officer
European Institutions Office
Amnesty International
Tel: +32 (0) 2 548 2773