Access to detention facilities

Cyprus

Country Report: Access to detention facilities Last updated: 28/04/21

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Under the law, every detainee is allowed to have personal private interviews with a lawyer in a private space without the presence of any member of the police.[1] This right can be exercised any day or time and the Head of the Detention Centre has an obligation to not prevent, obstruct, or limit access. In practice this is mostly adhered to. However, there would probably be an issue if a lawyer attempted to visit past the hour detainees are restricted to their rooms. In the case of UNHCR or NGO visits, there are restrictions as they must give prior notice and will be given access during regular hours. Police officers are present during interviews with detainees and NGOs, whereas lawyers maintain client/lawyer privilege and can meet in private.

The media are restricted from accessing detention centres and must request permission which would most probably not be granted. As mainstream media show little interest in such issues, there is not a lot of information with regard to media attempts to enter detention facilities. Less mainstream media would definitely not be given access and any video footage that has surfaced was shot without permission. Politicians have access to detention centres but are also required to give prior notice.

Under the law, every detainee has the right to daily visits with any person of their choice for the duration of one hour.[2] These are held in the presence of the police. When asked, no detainee reported a problem with the visiting procedure, apart from the fact that police presence during these meetings with relatives and friends, is very evident. The same would apply to religious representatives.

NGOs and UNHCR monitor detention centres, but in order to carry out monitoring visits and to be given access to areas besides those for visitors, approval is needed from the Head of Police or the Ministry of Justice and Public Order. Throughout 2016, the Police carried out consultations with NGOs and have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2017 which remains in effect (indefinitely), in order to facilitate better collaboration and communication between all parties including access to places of detention and exchange of information. This has indeed led to more effective access and faster information exchange.[3] The Cyprus Refugee Council carries out regular monitoring visits to Menogia, at least once a month, mainly to identify and screen vulnerable persons and provide information on asylum procedures to detainees. The police in Menogia is notified beforehand of the visits.

In Menogia, detainees are permitted to have mobile phones and use them at any time. Detainees report that they must pay for credit for their mobile phone with their own money that is held for them in the centre. Money sources include what was in their possession at the time of arrest or from friends or family. This money is used for all their necessities. This creates a communication barrier for detainees who did not carry any money at the moment of their arrest or who have used all of their funds. Detainees report that in such cases, they borrow money from other detainees or use another detainee’s mobile. In recent years, access to free WiFi has increased communication via mobile applications, however the quality for voice calls is not always adequate. According to the management of the centre, detainees can request to use the centre’s landline, however such a request must be submitted in writing and approved by the Director which usually takes 24 hours, and this includes calls to lawyers. Detainees did not seem to know about this option or report that it was easier to borrow another detainee’s mobile.

As the Centre is in a remote area, it is not easy for lawyers to access it, therefore detainees use faxes or mobile applications to send documents or written communication to lawyers, NGOs, or other organisations; this is facilitated by the management of the Centre and usually happens within 24 hours. There have also been reports by detainees that the documents are checked by the detention staff before they are allowed to send them,[4] however in most cases the documents are sent out.[5]

The situation in holding cells varies. In some there are stricter rules regarding the use of a mobile phone, however in others it is easier to access the landline and send faxes.

Since March 2020, with the outbreak of Covid-19, several restrictions have been imposed regarding access of detainees to either their lawyer, NGOs, or family and friends. During the first lockdown, from the end of March until the end of May 2020, nobody was permitted to visit Menogia, including lawyers. The measure had been applied for the Frist Reception Centre, Pournara and the Reception Centre Asylum Seekers in Kofinou. From May 2020, a restriction with regard to family members and friends continued, however, NGOs, and lawyers had access to the Menogia, but access remained restricted for the Frist Reception Centre, Pournara. From November 2020 until present, and based on a Ministerial Decree, no person can enter or exit migrant reception and/or detention centres without prior authorisation by the Minister of Interior.[6] This restriction does not apply to new arrivals and people having to enter/exit for work related reasons or humanitarian reasons.

 

[1]           Article 12 Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained Law.

[2]           Article 16 Rights of Persons who are Arrested and Detained Law.

[3]           Information based on the Cyprus Refugee Council’s access to Menogia within the scope of a pilot project on alternatives to detention.

[4]           KISA, Detention conditions and juridical overview on detention and deportation mechanisms in Cyprus, January 2014.

[5]           Information based on monitoring visits carried out by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[6]           Ministerial Decree based on the Quarantine Law, Cap 260, available at: https://bit.ly/31DiVH9

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation