• A monitoring report by the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has revealed worsening conditions in migrant centres in Cyprus.
  • The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has revealed a 112% increase in the number of unaccompanied children arriving in Trieste, Italy.
  • The opening of the two migrant centres that are foreseen as part of the Italy-Albania migration deal has been postponed due to construction delays.
  • Although the charges against the nine Egyptian men who were accused of causing the Adriana shipwreck of the coast Pylos have been dropped by the court in Kalamata, they remain in police custody.

A new report by the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has found that conditions in Cyprus’ prisons have deteriorated significantly since its last visit in 2017. According to the CPT report, people sent to the Pournara Initial Registration Centre were housed in containers with no electricity or hot water and crammed together “like sardines in unhygienic conditions”. It also revealed that serious overcrowding and poor conditions had created “a breeding ground for tension and frustration among the detainees” which had led to “outbreaks of violence and clashes between different groups, as well as attacks on staff”. The CPT stressed that subjecting foreign nationals to appalling living conditions and regimes in reception centres and police stations was “contrary to European values and international human rights law”. It recommended “a shift of approach towards persons on the move, recognising that the act of migration is not, in itself, a criminal offence” and discouraged “prison-like conditions”, such as those found in the Pournara centre and the Menoyia Detention Centre. A separate Asylum Information Database (AIDA) report, which was published by ECRE in May 2024, also highlighted “extremely dire conditions in the reception centre” and asylum seekers being detained in “police holding cells in substandard condition”.

ECRE member organisation the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has revealed that approximately 3,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Trieste, near to Italy’s borders with Croatia and Slovenia, in 2023. According to a new report by IRC Italy, this represents an increase of 112% from 2022 with the majority of the children coming from Afghanistan. The report has also revealed that the unaccompanied children continued to face a critical lack of access to emergency temporary accommodation. “There has been an alarming increase in the number of children arriving in Trieste via the Balkan route without their families or guardians, exposed to neglect, trauma, and both physical and psychological violence, including pushbacks,” the IRC noted.

Italy’s migration agreement with Albania is facing a setback as the opening of the two reception centres that was due to take place on 20 May has been postponed. Under the controversial deal, it is envisaged that Albanian authorities will receive migrants who are intercepted in international waters in a centre in Shengjin on the Adriatic coast until they can be processed in a separate centre situated in Gjader. The director of Shengjin port, Sander Marashi, confirmed that no migrants would be arriving there on 20 May as construction work was still “ongoing”.

On 21 May, a Greek court dismissed the charges against the nine Egyptian men who were accused of causing one of the Mediterranean’s deadliest shipwrecks. The accused, known as the ‘Pylos 9’, were among 104 survivors of a disaster in June 2023 in which a boat believed to be carrying 750 migrants from Libya to Italy sank in international waters off the coast of the Greek town of Pylos. “The shipwreck clearly occurred in international waters (…) the jurisdiction of the Greek courts cannot be established,” said the presiding judge. “I propose that they be declared innocent.” The legal team that represented the nine men denounced the case as part of a “systematic criminalisation of migrants in Greece”. Marion Bouchetel from the Legal Centre Lesvos told Al Jazeera: “The Pylos 9 defendants were unjustly arrested and charged with smuggling offences based on limited and questionable evidence”. Commenting on the court ruling, Stelios Kouloglou MEP said: “Today’s judgment is very positive but justice still has to be done. This was a huge tragedy, and an investigation must be conducted to find the real culprits”. A separate investigation into the conduct of the Hellenic Coast Guard is currently underway. Despite the court’s decision to dismiss the charges against them, the nine men have remained in police custody. On 24 May, members of the ‘Free the Pylos 9’ campaign reported being “mocked” by the police and denied access to see the detainees when they tried to visit them at the Nafplio Police Station. Dimitris Choulis, one of the defendant’s lawyers, X posted: “Two days after the acquittal decision, the Pylos 9 remain in detention from the police. Someone seems to be really annoyed and the decision for their release still pending. We need to continue speak out for their immediate release”.

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