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Do migrants/minorities face disproportionate problems in accessing justice?

Key Area:
Policing - Law Enforcement - Justice
Racism, Discrimination
13/02/2012 - 18:09
Short Answer


Qualitative Info

The national report of Cyprus for the FRA entitled “Thematic Legal Study on assessment of Access to Justice in Civil Cases: Cyprus” dated 1 October 2009 revealed the following problems of access to justice by minorities and migrants. Although the report was drafted in 2009, the situation as regards these issues remained unchanged throughout 2011.

  1.  The Law on Provision of Legal Aid N. 165(I)/2002 provides for legal aid only for criminal and civil law cases and excludes administrative proceedings. A ECtHR decision against Cyprus dated 04.12.2008 on the issue of availability of legal aid in administrative proceedings concurring opinion that “a question arises as to the conformity of such legislation with the requirements of Article 6 of the Convention” and that “there is a priori no reason why it should not be made available in spheres other than criminal law” (Marangos v. Cyprus, Application no. 12846/05).
  2. In an effort to transpose articles 15(2), 15(6) and 38 of Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1st December 2005 laying down minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status, an amendment to the legal aid law was enacted extending legal aid to asylum seekers applying to the Supreme Court under article 146 of the Cypriot Constitution in order to set aside a negative decision either of the Asylum Service or of the Reviewing Authority. Such decision may concern either the rejection of the applicant’s asylum application or the cancellation of the applicant’s refugee status. Legal aid will be made available only for the first instance review of the application by the Supreme Court and not for any appeal against this decision. However, the granting of legal aid is conditional upon the application to the Supreme Court having chances of success. This provision has resulted in all but a couple of applications for legal aid to be rejected, as the Court would in most cases find that the applicant’s case has no chances of success. This provision essentially negates the whole concept of legal aid extended to asylum seekers.
  3. In the area of anti-discrimination, an important discrepancy is located in the process of reviewing and revising existing laws, regulations and practices which contain discriminatory provisions. Review appears to be triggered off only when a complaint is submitted to the equality body; there is no process of systematic and continuous review of laws practices and regulations. Furthermore, the procedure of referring laws to the Attorney General for preparing amending legislation has so far not yielded any results, thus leaving discriminatory provisions in force.
  4. In the area of free movement of workers across Europe, there is contradictory approach by the courts in cases involving claims to family reunion of Union citizens, including Cypriots. A Report by the Ombudsman (Ref. Α/P 1623, Α/P 1064, dated 06.05.2009) refers to as “a contradictory and defensive position” by the immigration authorities. In some cases the Supreme Court provided effective redress by setting aside the immigration authority decision, thus reasserting the supremacy of the EU acquis, with its more liberal procedures on free movement, over the antiquitated Cypriot immigration law, which contains more stringent procedures and vests the Chief Immigration Officer with wide discretional powers. However, in a large number of cases the Court ruled in favour of the immigration authority’s discretion to regulate entry into the country as ‘an expression of sovereignty of the Republic’. Furthermore, the numerous cases of mixed marriages where the immigration authorities have refused entry or deported the foreign spouse of the Cypriot national have again received non-uniform treatment by the Courts; some decisions find in favour of the applicant and others in favour of the immigration authority’s decision.
  5. The application of the so called ‘doctrine of necessity’, which effectively suspended all communal rights of the Turkish Cypriots contained in the Constitution, presents problems to Turkish Cypriots claiming property rights, student grants, pensions and fundamental rights such as the right to vote, which was restored following an ECtHR decision against Cyprus. E.g. there are several dozens if not hundreds of cases where Turkish Cypriots were denied access to their property in the Republic-control south of Cyprus, because the ‘the abnormal situation’ created by the 1974 war entitled the state to invoke emergency measures relying on the ‘doctrine of necessity’

An Ombudsman’s report 12.03.2010 pursuant to a large number of complaints by migrant workers regarding the procedure followed by the Labour Office in investigating complaints by migrant workers against their employers revealed that, in some cases when migrant workers complained to the police for violation of their employment contract, the police chose to take the case to the Criminal Court instead of referring it to the Labour office, with the complainant being the accused. When the migrant workers’ testimony was no longer needed, then they would be deported without their allegations having ever been investigated. At the level of the labour office procedure, the officials did not make the necessary effort to investigate the allegations of the migrant worker even for the most obvious contractual violations and viewed all allegations made by migrants with suspicion. By contrast, they took the employer’s allegations for granted without investigation, demonstrating a clear pro-employer bias even where the employer’s contractual violation were more than obvious. Often, the labour dispute was investigated without taking into consideration the position of power of the employer over the employee and the latter’s lack of choice when instructed by the employer to perform work outside his/her contractual obligations. Also, whilst compliance by migrants with the instructions of the immigration authorities is closely monitored, compliance by the employer is not monitored. As a result, the sums due by the employer to the migrant often remain unpaid and the migrant worker is deported unable to recover the sums due to him/her.



Data n/a
Groups affected/interested Migrants, Ethnic minorities
Type (R/D) Anti-migrant/xenophobia, Intra-ethnic
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Employment - labour market, Anti-discrimination, Integration - social cohesion
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