Human Rights, Solidarity with Refugees

ICRIR: Activists Protest Outside Cyprus Embassy in Belgium, Demand Rights of Iranian Refugees Be Upheld

Activists in Brussels, Belgium have gone to the Embassy of Cyprus to demand that the rights of Iranian refugees be upheld by the Cypriot government. Organized by Nadia Borremans and Morteza Mollazeinal, the two-day protest action included a meeting with Ambassador Mavronicola–Droushiotis on 16 May 2011 and group demonstration outside the Embassy of Cyprus on 17 May 2011.

Cyprus has a refugee recognition rate of approximately one percent – among the lowest in the European Union – a clear indication that rights of asylum-seekers are grievously violated in Cyprus. Numerous reports have emerged over the years about the arbitrary and illegal detention of Iranian refugees in Cyprus, sometimes for years. This reality was reflected in the signs carried by demonstrators who demanded the release of illegally detained refugees.

These include Mansour Zahabi, an illegally-detained asylum-seeker who fled the brutality of the Islamic Republic in Iran, only to be denied his right to asylum in Cyprus. During the Cypriot government’s illegal detention of Mr. Zahabi, he has been denied medical care, including care for a Hepatitis C infection that he acquired inside the prison as a result of the execrable conditions inside the facility.

Other prevalent violations of the rights of asylum-seekers in Cyprus include the lack of access to medical care when needed. Protesters represented the case of denied asylum-seeker Elahe Rahimi, whose lower limbs, due to complications of diabetes, are being progressively consumed by gangrene. Due to the Cypriot government’s refusal to provide appropriate medical care, the gangrene has progressed to the degree that her life is at imminent risk. This is in violation of numerous United Nations and European covenants and agreements regarding fundamental human rights.

The demands of the action were as follows:
1. IMMEDIATE RELEASE of long-term detainees – providing them with a legal status
2. REOPEN the asylum files for those from countries at high risk
3. PROVIDE detainees with IMMEDIATE ACCESS to legal and medical help
4. IMPLEMENT the European directives concerning asylum and detention policy
5. IMPLEMENT the European directives concerning family reunification and long term residence

On every count, the Government of Cyprus refuses to uphold the rights of Iranian and other refugees. Yet the Ambassador, during the meeting, is reported to have denied all accusations leveled at the Cypriot government. Nevertheless, those demonstrating outside of the embassy managed to get the attention of the embassy staff themselves, who appeared concerned that there was a demonstration “against them.”

Demonstrations have been held outside the embassies of the government of Cyprus in Washington DC (8 May 2011) and Brussels (17 May 2011); protests are expected to expand to additional countries.

Members of the ICRIR include Action for Democracy and Human Rights in the Middle East, International Federation for Iranian Refugees, Iranian Refugees Action Network, Iranian Refugee Amnesty Network, and Mission Free Iran.

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