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Cypriot authorities should investigate allegations of pushbacks and ill-treatment of migrants, improve reception conditions, and ensure an enabling environment for NGOs

Letter
Strasbourg 18/03/2021
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Cypriot authorities should investigate allegations of pushbacks and ill-treatment of migrants, improve reception conditions, and ensure an enabling environment for NGOs

In a letter addressed to the Minister of Interior of Cyprus, made public today, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović urges the Cypriot authorities to ensure that independent and effective investigations are carried out into allegations of pushbacks and of ill-treatment of arriving migrants, including persons who may be in need of international protection, by members of security forces.

Commissioner Mijatović also calls on the Cypriot authorities to bring the conditions in reception facilities for asylum seekers and migrants in line with applicable human rights standards and ensure that they enjoy effective access to all necessary services.

With particular reference to restrictions on freedom of movement which are applied as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 pandemic to the residents of migrant reception facilities, the Commissioner recalls that rather than preventing the spread of the virus, deprivation of liberty risks endangering the health of both staff and asylum seekers and migrants, as these facilities provide poor opportunities for social distancing and other protection measures. She therefore urges the Cypriot authorities to review the situation of the residents of all reception centres, starting with the most vulnerable. She also emphasises that since immigration detention of children, whether unaccompanied or with their families, is never in their best interest, they should be released immediately.

Finally, the Commissioner notes that the implementation of the amendments adopted in 2020 to the Law about associations and foundations and other related issues have recently led to the de-registration of several non-governmental organisations.  She points out that it is paramount that the Cypriot authorities abide by their positive obligation to actively create and maintain an enabling legal framework and a political and public environment conducive to the existence and functioning of civil society organisations by considering alternative measures to their de-registration and dissolution, and applying proportionate sanctions, only when strictly necessary.