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Cyprus

Child commissioner calls out heavy-handed deportation tactics (Updated)

Menoyia migrant detention centre where the teen's father was being held before deportation

The island’s children’s rights commissioner on Thursday highlighted what she called the government’s over-zealous handling of illegal migrants with little or no consideration for their fundamental human rights – and reminded authorities of the need to bring its laws and practices into line with international standards.

The warning by Despo Michaelidou comes after a complaint was made to the commissioner by the child of a migrant who has been deported and whose family face the same fate.

According to Michaelidou in her letter to the government, the child claimed that a group of individuals allegedly used handcuffs, an electronic bracelet and a sedative injection to detain and escort his father from the Menoyia detention centre to the airport from where he was deported back to his country of origin.

“Mr. XXXX is currently in XXXX in a bad psychological state, and as he was told in two days the deportation of his wife and child will take place. Given these developments, the minor is also in a bad psychological state,” Michaelidou added.

More specifically, Michaelidou reminded the government that all governments must exercise immigration control in accordance with the principals set out in the UN Convention on Children’s rights when minors are directly or indirectly involved. In this particular case the  child was born in Cyprus and attends school on the island, giving the family long and established ties to Cyprus, she said.

“In view of all the above, I asked that you give instructions for reconsidering the possibility of granting Mr. XXXX a special residence and work permit for humanitarian reasons and in making these decisions, that special account be taken of the right to family life, health, education so that he can complete his high school education in a language he possesses and in general the interest of the 15-year-old XXXX,” the letter said.

For its part, the government attempted to justify its actions by explaining that the couple, whom the interior ministry identified as coming from Georgia, entered Cyprus illegally in 2005 and that their request for international protection and their appeal to the refugee review authority as well as to the Supreme Court were all rejected, a statement by the interior ministry said. However, the reasons for these decisions were not given.

Meanwhile, the ministry went on to add that despite the family’s extended stay on the island, they failed to take the necessary action to legalise their presence in Cyprus, noting that “opportunities” were given to them, including the suspension of the father’s detention. However, the statement explains that this was done on condition that the father voluntarily repatriate his family back to Georgia. The statement did not however give any other examples as to the opportunities the family were offered by the state to legalise their stay in Cyprus.

The family remained illegally in the country without taking any action to legalise their stay, despite the repeated opportunities and recommendations given to it in this regard. The opportunities given to them include the suspension of the father’s detention on the condition that he takes all the necessary actions for the voluntary repatriation of the family, which he did not do at any stage of their long illegal stay. Taking into account the facts, all the negative decisions of the administrative bodies and the best interests of the child, the Ministry of Interior took care of the issuance of the necessary travel documents for all family members, so that everyone can leave the Republic to their country of origin,” the press release concluded.

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