Originally published in the Cyprus Mail on March 22, 2012.
CYPRUS has taken a step backwards when it comes to the detention of children, a prominent NGO said yesterday.
At the launch of a global campaign to end immigration detention of children, which is being launched at UN Human Rights Council, Corina Drousiotou, the Senior Legal Advisor for asylum seekers and refugees at Future Worlds Center said the Cypriot authorities have so far avoided the detention of children.
However an amendment to the law in December 2011 now permits the detention of minors as well.
“We have always been proud of the fact that Cyprus, unlike many other EU states, has not detained children; we consider this an important tribute to the human rights record of the country and evidence of our humanitarian and ethical standards,” said Drousiotou.
“But the recent amendment in the law that permits detention of minors is gravely disappointing and we are observing the possible implementation with great concern; it seems like we are taking steps backwards on a crucial issue that for us permits no discussion, children do not belong in detention under any circumstances.”
After a visit to Cyprus recently, Amnesty International raised its concerns with the Cypriot immigration authorities regarding the legality and the length of detention, and urged the government to fulfil its international obligations and respect the rights of asylum seekers and migrants. Amnesty International delegates visited three different detention facilities on the island and almost every detainee they talked to, spoke of lack of legal aid, poor conditions, and insufficient medical care, a statement from Future Worlds Center said.
“Governments should not detain children just because they are fleeing abuse, war and poverty or do not have any papers. Many of these kids are unaccompanied, have lost their parents, are already traumatized and just want safety” said Jeroen Van Hove, Campaign Coordinator of the International Detention Coalition, “Children should not be locked up. These kids and families do not pose any threat to the community.”
A handful of countries around the world, such as Belgium, Argentina and Japan use community based alternatives to immigration detention for children. Whereas Brazil and South Africa do not detain asylum applicants at all, and operate long-standing and successful alternatives to detention.