By Andria Kades
Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou received 2,597 complaints in 2014, an average of 232 a month, she said on Monday, handing over her annual report to President Nicos Anastasiades.
The majority concerned migrants’ rights, followed by tax issues.
Speaking to reporters outside the presidential palace Savvidou said: “2014 was a particularly difficult period particularly for human rights and I say this because we had the huge wave of refugees from Syria and other countries.”
Several complaints were filed by Syrians that were waiting for their applications to be processed and could obtain refugee status. Savvidou stressed the need on handling these cases efficiently as the migrants live in Cyprus without being able to exercise many of their rights.
Her report outlines several failings by the migration department who for example, would separate mothers from their children and in some cases not give migrants or their lawyers their official remand or expulsion documents.
A domestic worker who reported she was sexually harassed by her employer while his daughter used to verbally and physically abuse her “are indicative of the circumstances several migrants live through, particularly in the domestic work sector” worsened by the stereotypes they face and the possibility of them not knowing where they can look to for support, Savvidou said.
According to Savvidou the health sector was yet another sector rife with human rights violations for “well known reasons”. She cited patient waiting lists, fewer doctors, problems in nursing staff and understaffing
Over the past few years, Savvidou’s office has received an increase in the number of complaints after the financial crisis kicked in and “the public’s trust towards public administration has been shaken, more so towards hospitals.”
Her report outlines “the health ministry seems to usually be hesitant in acting immediately to investigate, in depth and to the extent required from reports on doctors negligence or misdemeanours during the practice of their duties,” she said, citing an example from 2012 that was never investigated despite reassurances from the Limassol general hospital chief it would be.
The report also outlines a case of a legal gap where a person with mental disabilities was serving a prison sentence. Upon discussing the matter with relevant authorities the individual was released.
On the interior ministry, her report said authorities “expressed a quiet unwillingness to comply with annulling decisions by the Supreme Court,” where the appropriate person “disappeared” when the decision had to be carried out.
Also regulations over title deeds and leases were not always adhered to when it came to refugee housing, the report said however the interior ministry complied after she issued a report outlining her recommendations on resolving the problem.
Commenting on the praise Anastasiades bestowed on her after she launched an investigation into the attack on Turkish Cypriot cars by protesting Greek Cypriot students in November, Savvidou said a letter had already been sent to the police chief and she was waiting for more information. “Of course I have yet to receive a response.”
Read the full report in Greek here