Further to shattering the bicommunal dialogue, militarising the energy field, the soaring corruption and the illicit enrichment of relatives and friends, there come serious violations of refugee law and denigration of human life and dignity. Despite the repeated declarations as to the respect and protection of “genuine” refugees, the government openly displays its true positions and intentions.
Examples of these are-
- Introduction of legal impediments which render refugees’ access to a fair asylum procedure impossible
- Housing of asylum seekers in closed camps like Pournara, where there is no safeguard for decent and human conditions
- Adoption of policies of illegal interception and refoulement of asylum seekers.
Indicative of this is the illegal refoulement of refugees on board a boat at the shores of Cyprus from Lebanon a few days ago. After they were forbidden by the authorities to land, were then made to board another privately owned vessel chartered specifically by the state and, escorted by the Police, were returned to Lebanon, without being allowed to submit asylum claims and without, therefore, having these claims examined. These acts constitute a clear case of prohibited refoulement.
The second case concerns the also illegal prevention of a boat with refugees in the territorial waters of Cyprus from landing, on board of which were children with hypothermia and other health problems. The only thing the authorities did was to take them to hospital and then return them to the boat, once again preventing the refugees from access to the asylum procedure. This does not only constitute prohibited refoulement but it amounts to inhuman treatment and blatantly violates the rights of the child.
KISA points out that, according to the international and European obligations of Cyprus, the right to asylum is a fundamental right and refoulement in any way of people to a country where there are founded fears of persecution on the grounds of citizenship, racial or ethnic origin, religion, political beliefs or membership of a particular social group or serious risk of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment, before examining their asylum claims and according to fair, impartial and objective asylum examination procedures, constitutes blatant violation of these obligations.
Further, the Republic of Cyprus, according to the law of the sea, which it invokes so easily when it refers to Turkey which violates it, is obliged to rescue people at risk at sea and it also has the positive obligation to contribute to searching and rescuing them.
The present government has now adopted the illegal practices of other EU member states, such as those of Salvini, who is now on trial for his illegalities, as well as of their Greek, Hungarian and Polish partners and it is violating blatantly basic and fundamental refugee rights.
We call on–
- The government to stop the illegal interceptions and refoulement of asylum seekers.
- The government to proceed immediately to allowing the berthing of the boats now off the shores of Cyprus, and to provide to the refugees access to the asylum procedure and humane reception conditions.
- The government to adopt policies to deal with racism and the creation of conditions to ensure the integration and equal participation of refugees in society.
- The European Commission to immediately initiate infringement proceedings against the Republic of Cyprus in view of the repeated violations of the right to asylum and illegal refoulments of refugees in the last six months, under the pretext of the coronavirus but also the violations of the rights of asylum seekers more generally, with illegal detentions and inhuman living conditions.