12 December 2014
Investigating detention conditions in Cyprus, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) delegation has found that unaccompanied children are being detained in Cyprus as a punitive measure to force them to “voluntarily” return to their country of origin. The detained children who the Committee met with were detained in conditions indistinguishable from solitary confinement and had not been provided with any support or assistance, legal or otherwise, and no assessment of their age had been attempted, while held from weeks to months. In other cases, children were separated from their parents, which the CPT deemed not to be in the best interest of the child and recommended that children and parents only be detained in exceptional circumstances and if so, they should be accommodated together.
Multiple allegations of ill-treatment and racial abuse in the Menoyia Detention Centre were made to the committee. It was also reported that tear gas was sprayed in the sanitary facilities at night time meaning that the people would burn their hands and faces if they used the facilities. This was apparently to deter people from asking to use the facilities during the night.
The CPT also criticized the conditions in Menoyia Centre for migrants, which opened in 2013, for resembling and being managed very much like a prison. Furthermore, in spite of the separate facilities, the Cypriot authorities continue to detain irregular migrants with suspected criminals, as well as keeping them for prolonged periods in facilities appropriate for a few days only, including at police stations. The Committee also found that a loophole in law permits the Cypriot authorities to detain irregular migrants for an unlimited time in exceptional cases, including in the case of delays in obtaining from third countries documentation deemed necessary.
The Cypriot government pledged to take practical measures to better protect the interest of the child. The measures include accommodating children in ‘suitable establishments’ until age assessment is carried out and to implement guidelines to prevent the separation of children from their primary caregiver, against their best interests. Responding to recommendations to make the Menoyia Detention Centre less prison-like, the authorities say the facilities meet all the legal rights of detainees. According to the government, all measures taken by the administration of the centre are for the ‘protection, security and welfare of the detainees and the security of the staff.’
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