On one hand, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)[1] recognises that the Republic of Cyprus has undertaken positive measures, both at a legislative and a policy level; on the other hand, it observes that issues such as the combating of hate speech and hate crimes, the living conditions for asylum seekers, the treatment of domestic workers, the need to cooperate with NGOs, and the protection of human rights activists remain particularly problematic.

The Committee recently published its concluding observations[2] relative to the implementation of the Convention by Cyprus after a review conducted on the 3rd and 4th May regarding the implementation of the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination by the Republic of Cyprus (RoC) based on the data the Committee was presented with[3].

Regarding hate speech and hate crimes, CERD expresses concerns regarding the racist motives behind physical and verbal attacks by right-wing extremists and neo-Nazi circles against migrants, refugees, Turkish Cypriots but also human rights activists. At the same time, the Committee criticizes the RoC for reproduction of racist stereotypes and hate speech by the media as well as the ineffective handling of these phenomena. Based on these statements, the Committee recommends the RoC take immediate measures for the protection and safety of the affected social groups of the population by adoption of comprehensive legislation relevant to the elimination of hate speech and the implementation of the legal directive for the persecution of hate crime perpetrators.

Regarding asylum seekers, CERD expresses grave concerns for the multiple problems they face in Cyprus and has made recommendations for the RoC to follow, in order to help them out of the unpleasant situation they find themselves in today. More specifically, the Committee recommends:

  • Ensuring equal opportunities of employment for asylum seekers, permitting employment in a wider range of sectors, beyond agriculture, livestock, and fishing.
  • Taking measures to ensure equal access to social assistance benefits by asylum seekers without discrimination, since today, as the Committee points out, the members of this specific group are paid less than half the sum that citizens are paid (recipients of the Guaranteed Minimum Income).
  • The expansion of the receiving facilities and taking measures to ensure that all asylum seekers have access to important services such as healthcare, housing, and transportation to and from the remote reception centre in Kofinou.

Furthermore, the observations of the Committee mention that domestic workers continue to be vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. In order to improve the situation regarding this particular issue, some of the recommended measures include ending restrictions on the number of times domestic workers can change employer, granting migrant domestic workers access to the acquisition of long-term residence status, and their inclusion in the National Plan of Action for the Integration of Third Country Nationals. Also, the Committee urges the RoC to proceed with the ratification of the convention concerning Decent Work for Domestic Workers, as a means of eradicating discrimination against this particular population group.

Regarding the institution of the Officer for Administration and Human Rights, the Committee asks the RoC to take measures towards implementation of the recommendations of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation (SCA) of the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, such that Cyprus may be upgraded to A status from the B status it has recently been awarded.  Obtaining A status demands the full independence of this institution, in order to allow it to carry out its mandate as impartially and effectively as possible.

Finally, the Committee urges the RoC to ratify other international conventions concerned with the elimination of racist discrimination, such as the Convention for the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and the conventions regarding the status of stateless persons.

Based on the above, KISA asks the RoC to proceed with the immediate commencement of dialogue with all involved parties, including NGOs, such that the issues mentioned in the concluding observations by CERD may be dealt with effectively and to ensure the satisfactory and immediate implementation of the Committee’s recommendations.

[1] CERD is a body of independent experts observing the implementation of the Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination from member states that have ratified it. All contributing states are required to submit regular reports to the Committee regarding the methods of implementation of the aforementioned Convention.

[2] See CERD’s concluding observations: https://goo.gl/x22Scy

[3] KISA submitted an alternative report to the Committee, which you can read here: https://goo.gl/OyiVPM

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