By Maria Gregoriou
THE ROLE of the newly-appointed complaints committee and its working procedures to uphold human rights at the Menoyia detention centre for illegal immigrants was explained yesterday by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou.
The committee was appointed in May this year and yesterday was the first official meeting with the minister.
“The establishment of the committee sends a message to all international organisations that there is no racism in our country,” said Nicolaou.
The chairman of the committee is Pantelis Panteli who serves at the mental health services and is a specialised psychologist. Riginos Polydefkis and Eutixios Hadjichristodoulou are the members of the committee.
Polydefkis is an administrative official at the interior ministry and at the civil registry and migration department. Hadjichristodoulou is an official at social services and the labour ministry.
The appointment of the committee is a means to restructure and modernise the way in which the state operates.
By doing so, Nicolaou hopes to respond to the country’s international obligations, particularly those to do with protecting human rights.
The committee will be responsible for monitoring the operation of the detention area and also to listen to the complaints of the detainees.
“The committee will either work on received complaints or act on its own initiative to make appropriate suggestions or take necessary decisions to do with the centre,” Nicolaou said.
Menoyia detention centre was officially opened on February 14 of this year due to the increase of illegal immigrants. The centre can hold 276 people.
Illegal immigrates may be held because their asylum application has been rejected, because they remain in Cyprus after their residency has expired, or because they are due to be deported.
Some inmates have complained in the past that they were prohibited from using mobile phones while others complained they were beaten and pepper sprayed by police. Authorities have denied these claims.
On Tuesday the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Cyprus had violated the rights of a Syrian Kurdish refugee and ordered the government to pay him €10,000 in non-pecuniary damages.
The court found that at certain stages in the course of his asylum proceedings the applicant had been at the risk of deportation to Syria after a police raid in which he was swept up.