Place of detention

Cyprus

Country Report: Place of detention Last updated: 08/04/22

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Most asylum seekers are detained in Menogia. The Detention Centre of Menogia, located in the district of Larnaca, started operating in January 2013 with the purpose of detaining persons under return procedures. However, it is also used for the detention of asylum seekers. The official capacity of Menogia was initially 256 but has been lowered to 128, following recommendations made by monitoring institutions such as the Ombudsman’s Office and the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT).[1] Since its operation, there have been no issues of overcrowding. In the detention centre, asylum seekers are always detained with other third-country nationals as well as EU nationals pending removal.

In addition to Menogia, third-country nationals can also be held temporarily in police stations around the country, nevertheless they are sometimes used for lengthy stays. There are 18 such police stations with facilities to detain and the total capacity is 167 persons.[2] In police stations, asylum seekers may also be held with persons detained for committing an offence and awaiting their trial, although they will be accommodated in separate cells. Furthermore, persons detained for serious criminal offences will usually be transferred to the pre-trial unit at the Central Prison once the Court has ordered their detention. For certain period in 2020 and early 2021 during the lockdown measures for COVID-19, detainees who had to attend court hearings or visit a doctor had to submit a request for an exit permit to the Minister of Interior. Although the authorisations to exit were granted, this usually happened following interventions from NGOs and, in some cases, after the court hearing or appointment date.[3]

In recent years and due to recommendations from monitoring institutions, the majority of detained asylum seekers were usually transferred within two-three days to Menogia, however as reported by the Ombudsman’s Office in April 2018, there were cases where the stay reached eight days.[4]

On 26 March 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) delivered its judgment in the case Haghilo v. Cyprus (47920/12) regarding the detention pending deportation of an Iranian national, who had been detained for over 18 months in three police stations. The Court ruled that the applicant’s detention had been unlawfully extended after the expiry of the six-month period. It found that the detention measure was not in accordance with domestic law and, therefore, violated Article 5 (1) ECHR. In the light of this conclusion, the Court did not find it necessary to examine the preceding period of the applicant’s detention or the remainder of the applicant’s complaints under this provision. On the complaint under Article 3, the Court observed that the applicant had been held for a significant amount of time in detention, in police stations that were designed to accommodate people for a short time only. The buildings lacked the facilities necessary for the purposes of long detention, such as the possibility of outdoor activity. It noted the specific material conditions of the detention under review, such as the lack of day light, fresh air, and the small size of the cells in each station, which were detailed in reports provided by experts and the Ombudsperson. Referring to its case law, the ECtHR held that the applicant was subjected to hardship beyond the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention and that it amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment prohibited by Article 3.[5]

Since 2020 and up to the moment of writing, there was a substantial rise in the use of holding cells. There has been no official justification for the increase of use of police holding cells, however it seems to be due to the lack of space in Menogia Detention Centre. Furthermore, Menogia should only be used to detain persons who are in removal procedures. Therefore, persons who have applied for asylum whilst in a holding cell and the detention order is issued based on the Refugee Law should not be transferred to Menogia, although in practice this does happen. The national Ombudsman as National Preventive Mechanism of Torture, raised the issue in a report in September 2020, based on a monitoring visit of a Pafos police station.[6] The report states, among other things, that holding cells are not used for purposes of immigration detention and that persons are moved to Menogia within 48 hours. No improvement was noted after the issuance of the report.[7] In addition, due to lack of clear procedures with regards to access to asylum or court procedures, there seems to be a delay in responding to requests made by persons expressing their intention to apply for asylum while being detained in a holding cell, or asylum seekers wishing to access the court with the aim of challenging their detention.[8]

 

 

[1]  CPT, Report on the visit to Cyprus from 23 September to 1 October 2013, CPT/Inf (2014) 31, 9 December 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/2jlWcXx.

[2] Information provided by the Cyprus Police.

[3] FRA, MIGRATION: KEY FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS CONCERNS – Quarterly Bulletin, February 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/3DmhOxz, 22.

[4] Ombudsman, Έκθεση ως Εθνικός Μηχανισμός Πρόληψης των Βασανιστηρίων αναφορικά με την επίσκεψη που διενεργήθηκε στα Αστυνομικά Κρατητήρια Ορόκλινης στις 30 Νοεμβρίου 2017, ΕΜΠ 2.17, 3 April 2018.

[5]  ECtHR, Haghilo v. Cyprus (47920/12), 26 March 2019, available at: https://bit.ly/2Uru0Zh.

[6]Ombudsman, Report on Police Holding Cells in Pafos, 1 September 2020; ΈκθεσηΕπιτρόπουΔιοικήσεωςκαιΠροστασίαςΑνθρωπίνωνΔικαιωμάτωνωςΕθνικόςΜηχανισμόςΠρόληψηςτωνΒασανιστηρίων, αναφορικάμετηνεπίσκεψηπουδιενεργήθηκεσταΑστυνομικάΚρατητήριαΠάφουτην 1ηΣεπτεμβρίου2020availableat: https://bit.ly/3cD8ycF.

[7]   Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

[8]  Information provided by the Cyprus Refugee Council.

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