By Constantinos Psillides
ANDROULA Christofidou-Henriques, head of the Cyprus Stop Trafficking (CST) non-governmental organisation, will be staging a hunger strike outside the Interior Ministry on Sunday, demanding the immediate release of three mothers that are being held at the Menoyia Detention Centre.
“We ask Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos to order the immediate release of these three women. They have been separated from their children since January. This is unacceptable, an outrage,” Henriques told the Cyprus Mail.
She has notified the Interior ministry on her intention and demands. She said that a ministry official assured her that the Minister would call her by today.
“I hope the Minister releases these women, as he should have done by now. If not, then on Sunday we will go on hunger strike”, she said.
Henriques will be accompanied by Catherine Germain, another member of the CST.
The women in question are two Cameroon nationals and one from China. All three have children, the youngest aged 18 months. It is possible that the reason they are detained at Menoyia is that their marriages were deemed a fake by the Immigration Services.
Henriques told the Cyprus Mail that she worries about the mental health of their children. “One of them is allowed to see her child twice a week. Her child screams and wails when the mother is taken away. The psychological trauma caused to the child is horrifying,” she said, adding that the children are being taken care of by friends and the Welfare Services.
Two of the women are married to EU citizens, while the third is married to a fellow national.
The practice of separating children from their mothers was included in a scathing report issued by Amnesty International. In a press release on Tuesday, Amnesty examined the cases of those women married to EU citizens.
“Both women said the separation had had devastating effects on their children. One described how her son would not stop crying, had dark circles below his eyes and how she had difficulties feeding him. The other described how her son would not speak or smile during the little time she could spend with him, when he was brought for visits during her detention. The women had been resident in Cyprus for many years and were married to EU citizens; their children were also EU citizens”. Sherif Elsayed-Ali, head of Refugee and Migrants’ Rights at Amnesty International is quoted in the press release saying.
“There can be no excuse for separating a woman who has committed no crime from her children. The treatment of migrants in Cyprus at the moment is degrading and unnecessary.”
Responding to the Amnesty International report, Hasikos issued a statement saying that it contained “inaccuracies and vague references” and criticised it for being unilateral by not taking into consideration feedback given by Immigration Services.