02. April 2013 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Zypern: Unruhen in Abschiebeknast Menoyia · Kategorien: Nicht zugeordnet · Tags: ,

Discontent brews at new detention centre

By Stefanos Evripidou (published on March 30th 2013)


Trouble is already brewing in the new detention centre in Menoyia, after inmates complained about a lack of mobile phone access to the outside world, which resulted in a standoff yesterday with inmates claiming they were beaten and pepper sprayed by police. The new centre, currently holding 118 inmates including 16 women, was finally set up this year for the short-term stay of undocumented migrants and failed asylum seekers who are to be deported. During its inauguration, police chief Michalis Papageorgiou said the centre meets all EU requirements on living standards and would set the standard in Europe and internationally. However, a number of inmates contacted the Cyprus Mail yesterday claiming they had been beaten and pepper sprayed by police after refusing to go into their rooms, holding eight per room. The inmates claimed those in charge of the centre have been cutting off access to mobile telephony every day for a couple of hours, making it impossible for inmates to contact family. „There are people here desperate to get in touch with family in Syria and they cannot because they keep cutting the signal every day,“ said one Palestinian inmate. Another from Iran said he had a wife and child born in Cyprus that he was trying to get in touch with. „We have learnt that they have a switch in the main office which they use to cut off the signal every day for no reason. The connection works fine. CyTA came and checked it,“ said the one inmate. According to another inmate, when he complained about the problem last week, a policeman said they don’t need a mobile connection anyway, prompting the inmate to swear at the policeman. In response, police allegedly handcuffed the man, putting his hands behind his back, and punched him in the chest repeatedly. They then took him to a police holding cell in another town for four days before returning him to Menoyia, said the inmate. Yesterday, after the signal was down for four hours, a number of inmates decided to protest. When police ordered that they return to their wing, holding eight per room, the inmates staged a ’sit-down‘, refusing to budge. „We said we want the mobile signal back. We need to speak to people. We have family in Syria, around the world. We are not criminals, we are refugees with visa problems,“ said one inmate. „Then they came at us with batons and spray, hitting us. I have three people sitting in my room with red eyes and hands,“ he said. Police spokesman Andreas Angelides confirmed there was a problem with the telephone service at the centre and that the lines were down from 12pm till 2pm yesterday. „A group of men protested and refused to enter their wing, causing police to intervene,“ he said. Asked if they used batons and spray, he said: „No, but they did have to make a dynamic intervention so the men would agree to return to their wing and the centre could continue with the rest of its programme for the day.“ He said he was not aware of any mobile telephony problems on previous days. Asked about the use of force, Angelides denied violence was used. „If anyone has a complaint against the police they need to make it official so it can be investigated,“ he said. The inmates also complained that they were living in worse conditions than at the notorious Block 10 holding cells on the grounds of the Nicosia central prisons. „They handcuff is when we leave the room to get medicine, when we have a visitor, for anything; we are not even allowed to accept a bar of chocolate or tea or coffee from our visitors. Why are we treated this way? We are not criminals,“ said one. „I was in block 10 for ten months, it was much better than this,“ added another. The aim of Menoyia was to improve living conditions of people caught in legal limbo, usually awaiting deportation after failing to secure asylum in Cyprus. In some cases, particularly for Syrians or those whose country of origin refuses to accept them back, the wait for deportation could last months or years. Security at the centre is provided by special constables, an issue of contention between parliament and government that had delayed the centre’s operation. The justice ministry was eventually given final say, going with the state’s original plan of using police, including hiring about 100 special constables at a cost of EUR2.8 million.

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