A rather brief in comparison to other countries reference to Cyprus is included in the Amnesty International report on the state of the world’s human rights for 2012.

The report mainly refers to prolonged periods of detention of irregular migrants “with no alternative measures being considered.” It also mentions allegations of police ill-treatment of peaceful activists, which “have been denied by the authorities.”

At the same time an Amnesty International official has warned through CNA about the danger of xenophobic trends and actions due to a “toxic” mix of austerity and potentially larger numbers of immigrants from the Middle East.

More specifically, among else the report speaks of irregular migrants and rejected or other categories of asylum-seekers being detained in what “appears” to be “routine” practice, in poor conditions in unsuitable facilities.

There is a special mention of “several cases (where) Syrian nationals were held in immigration detention for several months, despite the authorities’ policy to suspend any returns to Syria during the internal armed conflict in the country.” As a result, their detention is described as “arbitrary, unnecessary and unlawful.” The report also reads that Supreme Court judgements ordering the release of individuals unlawfully detained have not always been respected in practice, as they were immediately re-detained on the same grounds as before.

The Cyprus chapter concludes with the remark that even though in 2012 more missing individuals after the 1974 Turkish invasion were identified and restored to their families, still “no perpetrator was identified or prosecuted in either Cyprus or Turkey.”

Speaking to the CNA in London, where the report was launched, Amnesty International’s spokesman for Europe and central Asia John Dalhuisen has a warning message to send:

“I think that we should be worried about Cyprus. It is a fact that many of the underlying economic, social and political conditions that are troubling to Greece exist in Cyprus – the combination of economic crisis, profound austerity, unemployment and the potential of increased migratory flows in the coming years, i.e. from Syria; and it is a potentially toxic mix. It is however the case that Cypriot society has so far shown a greater degree of resistance to the emergence of parties like Golden Dawn to Greece. But it’s always dangerous to make predictions. Cyprus already has, let me put it this way, a pretty robust migration policy. It uses a pretty much systematic detention of those who arrive in an irregular condition and asylum seekers, which is already per se problematic. We haven’t yet seen the numbers of migrants arriving that would create an obvious scapegoat community, but if the crisis continues and the number of migrants does go up, I think we will see very similar kinds of frustration as we have been seeing in Greece, with the potentially explosive mix, therefore the arrival on the scene of a much more aggressive far right party.”

More generally, the Amnesty International report concludes that “global inaction on human rights is making the world an increasingly dangerous place for refugees and migrants.” The organisation’s Secretary-General Salil Shetty said that the failure to address conflicts effectively is creating a global underclass and added: “Too many governments are abusing human rights in the name of immigration control, going well beyond legitimate border control measures.” 

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