By Constantinos Psillides
IMMIGRATION department head Anny Shakallis and Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos were reprimanded by the Supreme Court on Monday for ignoring a court decision to release a Bosnian asylum seeker from detention.
The Bosnian national, who is currently detained at Menoyia Detention Centre, was to be released on December 19, 2013 by order of another Supreme Court ruling. Instead of adhering to the ruling, immigration department re-arrested the man outside the court once the proceedings were concluded.
“Governmental services showed an unprecedented lack of respect by choosing to ignore a Supreme Court ruling,” the Supreme Court decision said, adding that there was absolutely no reason for the man to remain behind bars.
The Supreme Court also accused governmental services for conspiring to keep the Bosnian in detention, pointing out that the new detention order was ready minutes after the court ruling on December 19 was handed out. The Supreme Court cited a fax sent by Shiakalli to Hasikos, asking him to sign off on the new detention order.
“It is obvious that in anticipation of an unfavourable ruling, governmental services hastily drafted a new detention order, which proves that they weren’t planning on complying with the court’s decision,” the Supreme Court judge said.
The Bosnian came to Cyprus in 2005, along with his family. He asked for political asylum but his petition was officially rejected by all courts in March 2013 and he was asked to leave the island. In April 2013 he was arrested and transported to Menoyia, for being uncooperative. According to the immigration department memos and police reports, the man refused to sign documents saying he had received his deportation order.
Under European law, detention is the final step of the deportation process and should only be reserved for extreme cases. EU law dictates that six months is the maximum time an undocumented immigrant can remain incarcerated, with an extra year added if the immigrant is waiting for documents to arrive or if he is being “uncooperative”. Human rights lawyer Michalis Paraskeva told the Cyprus Mail that the last point is a regular source of conflict with immigration department. “It’s a provision they abuse to lock people up. They slap the label ‘uncooperative’ on people so they can lock them up for a long time. There is no clear definition of the term and they abuse it to their advantage,” he said.
The court ruled that the reason immigration department provided was not grounds for detention and the man should be released.
A source inside the department told the Cyprus Mail that the whole story had been blown out of proportion. “It’s merely a formality issue. We didn’t fill in the necessary paperwork and present our case in the correct way. We are trying to adhere to rules and regulations,” the source said.