On 18.11.2020 the Minister of Interior (YPES), Mr. N. Nouris, in an appearance on the SIGMA TV show ‘Mesimeri kai Kati’ made a highly racist statement that the episodes that took place the day before at the Asylum Seekers Centre in Kofinou “… unfortunately have to do with the culture of these people…”. The Ministry of Interior, completely silencing everything that had preceded it, stated that there is no other explanation “… when you are dealing with people who, instead of dialogue, choose knives and axes…”.
On November 12, 2020, a few days before the incidents, the government issued a decree, on the basis of the Law on Infectious Diseases, Chapter 260, turned the “reception and hospitality centres” of asylum seekers into detention centres, forbidding them from entering or leaving. The decision was made without any discussion and warning of the people living in the Centre. Instead of decongesting overcrowded the Reception Centres, the government chose to indiscriminately detain the entire population of the Centre. Residents of the Centre who until then had freedom of movement, overnight, could no longer visit their friends and relatives, go to work and school, remaining trapped in an inhospitable and isolated space, in the middle of nowhere.
These measures were the last straw especially for asylum seekers of African descent who have come out in protest against systematic discrimination and the institutional racism to which they have been exposed for months. A large number of them were forcibly transferred last April, following a decision by the Ministry of Interior, from the areas where they were staying, to the Pournara camp, where they remained in detention for a long time and in abhorrent living conditions. Then, they were forced to move to the centre of Kofinou where they remained trapped until today.
The individual who reacted violently to the decision of the authorities to close the Centre, had previously agreed with the authorities to return “voluntarily” back to his country. The authorities informed him that due to the new (measures), they will suspend the process for his departure from Cyprus. He did not accept the decision as he considered that the decision to leave the Centre and Cyprus did not have effect on health issues.
The situation was further aggravated by the fact that there is a complete lack of credibility of the authorities, due to the decisions they take from time to time, which also violate the Refugee Law itself, resulting in a lack of trust in the authorities.
KISA condemns the indiscriminate violence against protesters of African descent that police appear to have witnessed during the police operation.
It also condemns the excessive use of force by members of the Emergency Response Unit against a specific asylum seeker of African descent. According to a witness, this person was brutally abused, possibly revengefully for his attack on a police officer, which took place several hours earlier.
KISA calls on the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against the Police (ADIPA) as well as the Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights, as the Authority Against Torture and as the Authority against Discrimination, to investigate rhetoric of the Ministry of Interior as well as the exercise of excessive violence by the police.
Finally, KISA calls once again on mass media executives to carry out their work impartially and in full respect of their code of conduct. We consider it extremely necessary that in such cases the voice / opinion of the affected and not only the Official Bodies be heard.