Migrant support NGO, Kisa on Friday said the government’s policy on tackling the migrant flow was threatening public health since it has led to overcrowded reception facilities and is contrary to measures against the spread of coronavirus.
The group said in a written statement that it was proven right when it had warned earlier in the month that the new ‘holistic approach’ against the increasing migrant flows that the cabinet approved was violating refugee rights but also that it was inapplicable due to the lack of a legal framework, adequate staff and infrastructure.
Kisa said that today, given the current situation as regards the Covid-19 pandemic, it has also become “a threat to public health.”
While physical distancing and self-isolation is the rule for almost everybody, the group said, the government piles up asylum seekers in reception and detention spaces making them fast spread grounds for coronavirus.
Kisa said that the government has decided to open all wings of the Menoyia detention centre, while recent detainees are not taken there but kept at various police station cells in conditions which the European Court of Human Rights has found as inhumane and degrading.
It also ‘hosts’ more than 600 people at the Pournara reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia “in conditions that violate all decrees issued by the state on protection from coronavirus.”
It added that while in other European countries administrative detention is being restricted due to the impossibility of executing deportation orders, Cyprus chooses the detention and deportation ‘solution’ ignoring the short-and-long-term consequences of lockdown detention.
Citing the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) on the principles relating to the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in the context of the coronavirus pandemic, Kisa said that vulnerable people within the groups of detainees and refugees such as pregnant women, children and persons with disabilities and health problems, remain “invisible.”
They are seen as the ‘foreigner’ that must be kept away and restricted along with hundreds others, Kisa said, “exposed to guaranteed dangerous conditions.”
The group called on the government to review its practices before it’s too late. It suggests that the government suspends the detention of persons slated for deportation, the immediate closure of crowded reception centres, especially Pournara, and the transfer of persons to other facilities and adjust the measures against coronavirus to the needs of migrants and refugees. This will be made possible by providing information in their language and ensure their access to health services.
Kisa also calls for the inclusion of migrants and refugees to the support measures for the unemployed and vulnerable groups regardless their residence status.
The new government policy aimed at tackling the increasing migrant flows includes expediting asylum applications and deportation for those whose applications are deemed as baseless.
It was also decided that the state will no longer rent hotels or other facilities to host the asylum applicants but offer them accommodation in organised detention areas.