By Alexia Evripidou
A HUNGER striker protesting outside the Ministry of Interior on Monday has secured the release of an immigrant mother detained by the police in Paphos, with another pregnant detainee’s release pending.
The President of Cyprus Stop Trafficking (NGO), Androulla Christofides Henriques, armed only with billboards, an umbrella and determination petitioned the Minister of Interior for both ladies’ freedom, however only one was confirmed released.
“If she in not released by today, I will just have to go and continue my hunger strike again,” said Henrique who was informed by Minister of Interior Socrates Hasikos that both detainees would be freed.
“I was told yesterday that the Sri Lankan lady [from Paphos] was actually released and I had no reason to doubt that but I found out later that the [pregnant] Vietnamese lady was still being kept in detention,” Henriques said.
Henriques was met in person on Monday at the ministry’s entrance by Hasikos, where she presented the case of both immigrants. The Sri Lankan mother with a young child was arrested and detained for deportation in Paphos while the three-month pregnant Vietnamese lady was taken and kept in Menoyia Detention Centre for prohibited immigrants.
Henriques asked for Hasikos’ written assurance that there will be no such repeat arrests and detentions with the purpose of expelling either foreign mothers with children under three or pregnant woman.
Hasikos was reported to have said “I want cooperation between us, not war”.
Hasikos assured he had given clear instructions to the Director of the Civil Registry and Migration, Annie Shiakalli that in cases of arrest for deportation both parents are not arrested, leaving the minor in the care of the welfare services.
Michalis Christodoulides, fiancé of the detained pregnant migrant said she has been detained for two months and has lost 7kg. “She is malnourished and has developed a fear of everything as a result this experience,” he said.
He claimed that “after discovering the pregnancy, she was removed from Menoyia and taken to Larnaca airport where she was bound, gagged and beaten in an attempt to quieten her and send her back to Vietnam. Eventually she was sent back to Menoyia, where the police took her to a hospital”. Christodoulides fears for his fiancé and unborn child’s health and mental well-being.
In recent months, NGOs and civil society organisations (CSOs) have taken to the streets to protest serious violations of the human rights of third-country nationals including women and children, Henriques said. “The list of violations include police violence against a pregnant woman leading to her miscarriage; unlawful detention of minor boys and girls and illegal deportation of victims of trafficking or asylum seekers”.
She added: “NGOs and CSOs are seriously concerned by the irresponsible practices of the migration department, which has shown disregard for the decisions of the Supreme Court and the Ombudswoman’s recommendations, to the detriment of vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers”.
On Monday the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe criticised the practice in Cyprus of detaining mothers of minors solely for purposes of deportation. It said the child’s best interests should be primary and that this behaviour is completely opposed to international human rights standards.
The Commission also urged Cyprus to implement the recommendations of the Ombudswoman and Human Rights and the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child and “to end the practice”.