Human rights commissioner Maria Stylianou-Lottides on Thursday said that the fight against racism and the promotion of principles of equality and mutual respect are “collective responsibilities”.

Speaking on International Day Against Racism and Discrimination, which falls annually on March 21, Lottides stressed that the day reminds states of their obligation to remain vigilant “against the multifaceted, complex and intricate parameters of racism and xenophobia”.

“These parameters lead to demeaning and unjust treatment of individuals based on their race, national origin, skin colour, language or religion,” she said in a statement.

“This obligation entails taking initiative and action for immediate, fair and effective addressing of issues arising from the phenomenon of racism and ensuring the effective protection of vulnerable population groups, such as migrants, asylum seekers and refugees.”

The International Day Against Racism and Discrimination commemorates the victims of South Africa’s Sharpeville massacre of 21 March 1960, in which peaceful demonstrators against apartheid were killed.

In her statement, Lottides referred to the second report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) titled “Being Black in the EU” of 2023, which shows that despite the binding anti-discrimination legislation in the EU since 2000, coupled with significant policy developments, people of African descent continue to face racism, discrimination and hate crimes.

She also stressed that racist incidents and xenophobic rhetoric in the public sphere unfortunately also occur in Cyprus.

“These have worsened in recent years due to the significant increase in people coming to Cyprus to seek international protection, as well as the parallel economic difficulties faced by a significant portion of Cypriot society,” she said.

“The appalling video that came to light in July 2022, showing a man violently attacking and beating an African woman holding a baby, the disturbing incidents of violent attacks against foreign food delivery drivers that occurred in the city and district of Nicosia during the same period, as well as the recent incidents in Chloraka and Limassol, constitute examples of such incidents that prompted intervention on the part of my office.”

Lottides said that for the effective tackling of racism, it is necessary for the competent authorities to intervene promptly and decisively.