Department of Administration: Unacceptable stay of arrivals in the forecourt of Famagusta Police Department
In her report, Maria Stylianou-Lottidis found a deprivation of rights
The need to find solutions for short-term accommodation of people who arrive in Cyprus by boat and are identified by the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, was pointed out by the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights, Maria Stylianou-Lottidis, in view of the possibility that the arrivals of refugees will increase, due to the crisis in the Middle East. The Commissioner communicated her recommendations to the competent authorities, after examining the living conditions of people in the forecourt of the Famagusta Police Department last August, where a deprivation of rights was found.
The examination of the case arose ex officio, as the Commissioner states in her statement, following information in the media and the data, findings and recommendations of the Commissioner were submitted to the Ministers of the Interior and Justice and Public Order, the Deputy Minister of Social Welfare, the Chief of Police and the Asylum Service.
The Commissioner's report notes that the media reported that those who arrived by boat on August 15, remained for four days in the courtyard of the Famagusta Police Department and because Lebanon ultimately did not agree to their return, they were transferred to the "Pournara" Temporary Reception and Hospitality Center for Immigrants ", in Kokkinotrimithia. Officials of the Commissioner's Office visited the site on August 21, 2023, to ascertain the living conditions of these individuals, pointing out that their cooperation with the police was exemplary and kind.
During the visit it was found that during their stay there, the 60 people (40 men, three women, three minor children and 14 unaccompanied minors), were deprived of their liberty, had no access to showers and remained for four days, with temperatures around 35 degrees, in a place that "does not even minimally meet the international standards regarding temporary accommodation for immigrants and was badly used, even for a few days as such a place", as the Commissioner typically notes.
In particular, the Commissioner's report states that next to the warehouse of the Police Department, the Civil Defense placed two large tents and a number of folding beds, to serve the needs of the persons on board the boat. For their physical needs, the persons used the two toilets located in the warehouse, as well as toilets in the Police Department building. Also, as the Officers of the Commissioner's Office were informed, during the entire stay of the persons in the specific area, they were provided with food and water, as well as cloths and milk for the minor children.
The Commissioner notes in her report, of course, that "from the moment those on board the boat were transferred and remained in the forecourt of the Famagusta Police Department and they were not allowed to leave the specific area, throughout their stay there they were unconditionally deprived of their freedom".
Regarding the material conditions of accommodation of the specific persons, it states that there were no facilities for bathing in the area, therefore the specific persons "probably did not have the opportunity to bathe for four consecutive days, even though during that time they were exposed to high temperatures ». It also underlines the unsuitability of the space for people to stay, especially under high temperatures and especially for small children and unaccompanied minors.
Besides, he points out, the staff of the Famagusta Police Department, whether the policemen of the Police Station or the YAM Echelon, are not specially trained to host people in the forecourt of the Police Department, nor is this their mission.
"Preliminary solutions, such as the temporary accommodation of immigrants in the courtyard of the Famagusta Police Department or in another inappropriate place until it is decided that they will be transferred in the end, cannot be justified", underlines Mrs. Lottidi. "In any case, even for short-hour/few-day hosting of immigrants arriving in the territories controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, there should be available space that meets international standards and, in any case, ensures decent living and accommodation conditions for as long as these persons need to be accommodated", he adds.
By extension, it recommends that the Ministry of the Interior, in collaboration with the other agencies involved, that is, the Police, the Asylum Service, the Welfare Office, the Ministry of Health and the competent local authorities, "to examine the possibility of finding alternative solutions, not excluded of the possibility of creating a suitable area in the wider area, to which the passengers on boats that stop within the area of responsibility of the Republic of Cyprus can be transferred".
"The specific space should be specially designed to provide adequate and satisfactory protection from the weather for the persons transported there, be equipped with sanitary facilities and have the necessary equipment to ensure the comfortable and dignified stay of all, regardless of the of persons transferred there", notes the Commissioner's report.
He points out, "that the above-mentioned area is not required to evolve into a place to accommodate immigrants or a miniature of the "Pournara" Center in Kokkinotrimithia, but should be intended exclusively for the accommodation of persons boarding boats until they are transferred either to "Pournara" Center or anywhere else, for a limited time.