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Cyprus Stop Trafficking
Press Release – Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Civil society organizations condemn the cruel and inhumane conduct by some Cypriot police officers:

A Nigerian asylum seeker has been subjected to inhumane treatment by the police officers who were in charge of his deportation from Cyprus, said a complaint filed on 26 May 2013 by Ms. Androula Christofidou-Henriques, President of Cyprus Stop Trafficking (CST). The complaint was addressed to the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Interior, the Chief of the Police, the Ombudsman and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). “Such behavior reminds me of Nazi Germany or the dictatorship times in Greece”, said Ms.Christofidou-Henriques.

According to a report by Ms. Catherine Germain, Vice President of CST who visited the brutally beaten Nigerian man in Aradippou police station, he was continuously beaten by his two escorting police officers even after he had been tied to his seat on board the plane bound for Nigeria on 17 May. The brutal beatings inflicted severe injuries to his body and his face which began to bleed. This apparently caused the deportation attempt to be aborted as the man needed urgent medical treatment. He was off-loaded from the plane and taken to a hospital where he received adequate treatment and the necessary medicines. “Even after ten days of treatment, the man was suffering a lot and couldn’t swallow due to his injuries while his face and forearms were still bearing scratches and scars”, reported Ms. Germain after her visit.

Some of the NGOs and civil society organizations who were informed of this incident said they are horrified to learn of the brutal actions against a hapless man and they strongly condemned this behavior which tarnishes the image and reputation of Cyprus before the international community and therefore damages the country’s wider interests.

CARITAS CYPRUS Co-ordinator for Migrants and Asylum Seekers, Ms. Dolores R. Savvides, said that unfortunately some police officers in Cyprus have always been prone to tactics to achieve their ends irrespective of any legality as to the means. She expressed her fear that anti-migrant feeling is building up.

M. Nasr Ishak, the Representative of UNHCR in Cyprus said that nothing can justify such an inhumane conduct. Following its enquiries, UNHCR found out that the man came to Cyprus in June 2008 and applied for asylum in July 2008. However, for reasons which are yet to be explained by the Asylum Service, the file was closed in September 2008 without a decision issued on the substance of his asylum claim. This means that he had been in Cyprus for nearly five years without a determination of his refugee status.

Lack of effective investigation:
Three months ago, CST brought to UNHCR’s attention a case of police brutality against a rejected asylum seeker from Africa who was being threatened with immediate deportation. Two months ago, CST again brought to UNHCR’s attention several complaints of beatings and mistreatment of detainees at Menogia detention center. Although UNHCR immediately forwarded these complaints to the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against the Police (IAIACAP), no investigation report has been seen by CST. Two weeks ago, CST informed UNHCR of yet another incident of police violence against a rejected asylum seeker from Africa whose case was being re-examined. UNHCR also forwarded the complaint to the IAIACAP but when we followed up a few days ago, CST was advised that the IAIACAP is yet to appoint a criminal investigator for the case.

With regard to the 26 May complaint filed by Ms. Androula Christofidou-Henriques, the result was shocking. In the morning of Friday, 31 May 2013, the Nigerian man was removed from Aradippou police station and taken to the immigration police office in Larnaca where he was allegedly tortured and was given three injections while he was being hurriedly put on a plane bound for
Lagos via Abu Dhabi. On 31 May Ms. Christofidou-Henriques received the news that the Nigerian man has been successfully deported from Cyprus.

“As with many cases of trafficked persons in Cyprus, the State’s efforts to prevent and punish such practices are not adequate. In the present case, the torture and cruel treatment of the Nigerian asylum seeker may never be proven because the authorities allowed the victim to be removed from its territory”, says Ms. Christofidou-Henriques Mr. Ishak pointed out that the use of torture, cruel or degrading treatment of third country nationals constitutes serious breach of the State’s obligations under numerous articles of the human rights treaties. It is therefore a matter of grave concern to UNHCR and the civil society.

Androula Christofidou-Henriques

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