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Excerpt from the Third Report on Cyprus [as concerns Roma]
Council of Europe, European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI), Third Report on Cyprus, adopted on 16 December 2005, made public May 16, 2006, (AP)

Foreword

The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) was established by the Council of Europe. It is an independent human rights monitoring body specialised in questions relating to racism and intolerance. It is composed of independent and impartial members, who are appointed on the basis of their moral authority and recognised expertise in dealing with racism, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance. One of the pillars of ECRI’s work programme is its country-by-country approach, whereby it analyses the situation as regards racism and intolerance in each of the member States of the Council of Europe and makes suggestions and proposals as to how to tackle the problems identified.

The country-by-country approach deals with all member States of the Council of Europe on an equal footing. The work is taking place in 4/5 year cycles, covering 9/10 countries per year. The reports of the first round were completed at the end of 1998 and those of the second round at the end of the year 2002. Work on the third round reports started in January 2003.

The third round reports focus on “implementation”. They examine if ECRI’s main recommendations from previous reports have been followed and implemented, and if so, with what degree of success and effectiveness. The third round reports deal also with “specific issues”, chosen according to the different situations in the various countries, and examined in more depth in each report.

The working methods for the preparation of the reports involve documentary analyses, a contact visit in the country concerned, and then a confidential dialogue with the national authorities.

ECRI’s reports are not the result of inquiries or testimonial evidences. They are analyses based on a great deal of information gathered from a wide variety of sources. Documentary studies are based on an important number of national and international written sources. The in situ visit allows for meeting directly the concerned circles (governmental and non-governmental) with a view to gathering detailed information. The process of confidential dialogue with the national authorities allows the latter to propose, if they consider it necessary, amendments to the draft report, with a view to correcting any possible factual errors which the report might contain. At the end of the dialogue, the national authorities may request, if they so wish, that their viewpoints be appended to the final report of ECRI.

The following report was drawn up by ECRI under its own and full responsibility. It covers the situation as of 16 December 2005 and any development subsequent to this date is not covered in the following analysis nor taken into account in the conclusions and proposal made by ECRI.

Executive Summary

Since the publication of ECRI’s second report on Cyprus on 3 July 2001, progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in that report. The legal and institutional framework against racial discrimination has been considerably strengthened, as reflected in the ratification of Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights, the adoption of primary antidiscrimination legislation, and the extension of the mandate and powers of the Commissioner for Administration to deal with racial discrimination. A number of important measures, including issuing of passports and other personal documents, have been taken to improve the position of the members of the Turkish Cypriot community, who, following the partial lifting of the restrictions to freedom of movement across the Green Line in April 2003, live and work in increasing numbers in the government-controlled part of Cyprus. The legal and institutional framework for the examination of international protection needs is now in place. Police monitoring of racist incidents has been introduced.

However, a number of recommendations made in ECRI’s second report have not been implemented, or have only been partially implemented. The continuing lack of a comprehensive immigration and integration policy has resulted in a particular vulnerability of immigrants, including domestic and other foreign workers, to human rights violations, exploitation and discrimination. Closely connected to this area of policy, asylum seekers experience very similar problems and are confronted with serious difficulties in exercising their rights. The extensive use of detention under immigration powers in respect of both immigrants and asylum seekers and the conduct of law enforcement officials, which has included alleged cases of ill treatment, vis-à-vis these and other minority groups remain a matter of concern for ECRI in Cyprus. New opportunities for actively promoting dialogue and reconciliation between the members of the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities still remain to be seized. This is important in order to both reduce the negative impact of the continuing division of the island on the relations between these communities and gain further support from the population as a whole for a solution to this division. Manifestations of prejudice and discrimination affecting Turkish Cypriots still need to be adequately recognised and dealt with. The position of other groups vulnerable to disadvantage, racism and racial discrimination, such as Roma and Pontian Greeks, also needs to be addressed more effectively.

In this report, ECRI recommends that the Cypriot authorities take further action in a number of areas, including the urgent need to adopt a comprehensive immigration and integration policy respectful of the human rights of immigrants and the need to ensure that the rights of asylum seekers are thoroughly respected. ECRI also recommends that the Cypriot authorities raise awareness and improve the implementation and monitoring of the legal framework in force against racism and racial discrimination, including by providing adequate support to the Commissioner for Administration. Furthermore, in this report ECRI addresses the need for a more proactive approach to developing contacts and good relations between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities and the need for education at all levels to increasingly reflect the needs of a culturally and ethnically diverse society. The need to fully recognise and address the problems with which groups vulnerable to discrimination in Cyprus are faced is also addressed in this report.

As it makes recommendations to the Government of Cyprus, this report only covers the situation in the part of Cyprus presently under the effective control of this government.

I. FOLLOW-UP TO ECRI’S SECOND REPORT ON CYPRUS

Roma

83. Roma in Cyprus are generally considered to belong to the Turkish Cypriot community. Although precise figures are not available, a few hundred Roma are reported to live at present in the government-controlled part of Cyprus, mostly in the Limassol and Pafos areas, where they moved from the part of the island not under the effective control of the government of Cyprus in 2001 and 2002. Members of the Roma community are reported to face widespread prejudice, disadvantage and discrimination in different areas. Hostility and rejection by the local non-Roma population is reported to be high and to have in some cases resulted in physical violence. In these cases, the racist dimension of the incidents has reportedly been played down or neglected. Rejection and prejudice from the local community, for instance from parents of school children, have reportedly also resulted in discrimination of Roma children in access to education. Furthermore, it has been reported to ECRI that, around the time when the Roma settled in the government-controlled part of Cyprus, the Cypriot authorities have used language and displayed attitudes vis-à-vis these persons that were not conducive to defusing tensions and promoting acceptance of Roma by the local communities. Although the disadvantaged position of Roma is reflected in virtually all areas of life, it is reported to be particularly serious in housing. The Cypriot authorities highlight that they have provided funds for improvement of Roma housing and created two housing projects for Roma. However, ECRI also notes that there are still Roma families without access to basic facilities such as water and electricity. ECRI notes that members of the Roma communities may benefit from the measures put in place by the Cypriot authorities to assist and support the Turkish Cypriot population. Thus, for instance, Roma children, who are Turkish speaking, receive education in this language in schools.

Recommendations:

84. ECRI recommends that the Cypriot authorities take steps to improve the situation of the Roma and combat and prevent racism and racial discrimination against this part of the population of Cyprus. ECRI draws the attention of the Cypriot authorities to its General Policy Recommendation No. 326, which proposes a range of legislative and policy measures which governments can take to this end.

(end)

To view the entire report, click on the following title: Third Report on Cyprus.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of each individual author. The views and opinions do not represent those held by the Dom Research Center.

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