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An outcry has been raised in social media since yesterday following the publication of an amateur video, which records part of the abuse faced by a refugee woman from Somalia in a local office of the Social Welfare Services.[1]

The complainant had arrived in Cyprus as an unaccompanied minor and awaits, for the last one and a half year, the examination of her application for international protection. Her rent has not been paid by the Social Welfare Services since November 2018 and the owner, as a result, has been threatening to evict her, while in February 2019 she was only provided with 150 euros in coupons which could be redeemed with products from specific shops, without being given the allowance of 70 euros for the rest of her expenses (electricity, water and personal expenses), while in March she has not been paid anything.

The woman had reached a dead end since she had fallen ill and, raddled as she was, she visited the Social Welfare Services office last Wednesday in an attempt to request a meeting with the social welfare officer who handles her case and ask for assistance in this deadlock that the Social Welfare Services had created in the first place.

The social welfare officer at the reception not only had denied her request to see the officer who handles her case but she threw her identity card on the floor and asked her to leave. When the woman complained, the welfare officer at the reception called the security guard who approached her and grabbed her by the throat in order to remove her.

The woman was in a lot of pain, considering the already burdened situation of her throat, and felt as if she was choking having as a result to throw her wallet towards the security guard. The security guard then attacked her again by hitting her, and violently threw her out of the building.

On her way home, she realised that her lips and mouth were bleeding so she decided to file a report to the police. She visited Larnaca’s Central Police Station, where a woman police officer, after she began to tell her what had happened, told her that it was her fault for the incident since she had thrown the wallet, and that the country is poor and has no money and she didn’t understand why they come to Cyprus. She further told her that the fact that he attacked her was reasonable because he is attacked on a daily basis and has the right to defend himself, and did not allow her to file her complaint.

The next day her whole body hurt and she went to the Emergency Department where she was examined by a doctor who wrote a subscription for her for certain medication to buy at the pharmacy, which she could not however afford as she had no money. Eventually her medication was bought today by KISA.

Following an investigation by KISA it follows that the security guard in question was previously at the Social Welfare Services in Nicosia where he had exercised violence against Somali refugee women in the past, a fact of which the Social Welfare Services are fully aware.

We should highlight that in a meeting we had at KISA’s Migrant and Refugee Centre on Saturday the 9th with the women from Somalia, they reported that they systematically face institutional racism, gender violence and humiliating treatment because of their colour, their religion and the legal status of their residence, in pretty much all aspects of their lives.

They also consider that the specific violent incident at the offices of the Social Welfare Services, as well as the recent incident of institutional racism noted in the alleged “rape” of the five-month old infant – which also concerned a family from Somalia – are the tip of the iceberg.

KISA condemns all the above and calls on the competent authorities to investigate fully both the violence against the woman exercised by the security guard and the tolerance/complicity of the Social Welfare Services as well as the refusal of the Police to accept her complaint.

KISA further calls upon the state, to not only ratify international human rights conventions, such as the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, but also to effectively implement them. Since July 2017, when the Convention was ratified, its implementation has been prevented due to failure to take the necessary legislative and other tools.

KISA stands in solidarity and calls on all relevant organisations in the civil society to support its activities and the mobilizing actions that are being scheduled for the next few days by the women from Somalia.


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