The northern part of Cyprus has been administered by Turkish Cypriots since 1974 and proclaimed itself the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” in 1983. The United States does not recognize the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” nor does any country other than Turkey. In 2020 Ersin Tatar was elected “president” and leader of the Turkish Cypriot community in elections widely seen as influenced by pro-Tatar interference from Turkey. In 2018 voters elected 50 “members of parliament” in free and fair elections. The “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” “constitution” is the basis for the “laws” that govern the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.
Police are responsible for enforcement of the “law.” The “chief of police” is nominally under the supervision of the “Prime Ministry.” Police and Turkish Cypriot security forces, however, are ultimately under the operational command of the Turkish armed forces, as provided by the “constitution,” which entrusts responsibility for public security and defense to Turkey. Authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. There were credible reports that members of the security forces committed some abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious restrictions on free expression and media, including criminal libel “laws”; refoulement of asylum seekers; serious acts of “government” corruption; lack of investigation of and accountability for gender-based violence; trafficking in persons; and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national minorities.
Authorities took steps to investigate officials following allegations of human rights abuses and corruption. There was evidence, however, of impunity.
Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person
a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings
There were no reports that the “government” or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.
There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of “government authorities.”
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The “law” does not refer explicitly to torture but does prohibit police mistreatment of detainees under the section of the “criminal code” that deals with assault, violence, and battery. There were reports that police abused detainees.
In February police arrested Russian fugitive Alexander Satlaev in Kyrenia four days after he escaped from the “Central Prison.” The Turkish Cypriot Bar Association Human Rights Committee, Refugee Rights Association, Turkish Cypriot Human Rights Foundation, and other human rights organizations issued a joint statement claiming police subjected Satlaev to inhuman treatment and torture. Organizations reported a police officer pulled Satlaev’s hair and that there were bruises on his arms and his face. Online news outlets posted photographs and videos purportedly showing a police officer pulling Satlaev’s hair while his arms were handcuffed behind his back.
The “attorney general’s office” reported they received four complaints concerning police battery and use of force and had launched investigations into all four cases. The “attorney general’s office” determined two of the complaints were baseless, based on statements from eyewitnesses. Investigations regarding the other two cases continued at year’s end.
The “attorney general’s office” also reported the completion of three investigations regarding police mistreatment pending since 2020: two complaints were assessed to be baseless; the third resulted in a police officer being charged with abuse. The trial was pending at year’s end.
An “attorney general’s office” investigation concluded that a complaint by two female international students of police mistreatment in July 2020 was unfounded. The students had reported that they were forced into a vehicle by four undercover police officers, beaten in the vehicle and at a police station, and then released 24 hours later without any explanation. Press outlets published photos of their bruised faces. The “attorney general’s office” determined the students were fighting in the street while intoxicated and had refused to report to the police station to provide statements, so police detained both students and held them overnight at the police station. The students were charged with disturbing the peace and public intoxication.
In one of the complaints, which it assessed to be baseless, the “attorney general’s office” determined that a complainant’s injuries in 2019 resulted from a traffic accident that occurred three days prior to an alleged abuse complaint. The complainant was charged with providing false statements to police and fined.
In April a police officer was sentenced to 50 days in prison after a video was published of the officer kicking a detained tourist in the presence of other officers at the Ercan (Timbou) airport in 2019. Other police officers present during the incident received administrative penalties. According to local press, the detainee was drunk and yelled at police for getting his cell phone wet during the security screening.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in a number of areas, including overcrowding, sanitary conditions, medical care, heating, and access to food. A nongovernmental organization (NGO) reported asylum seekers were detained in overcrowded, “government”-run detention centers pending their return to Turkey.
Physical Conditions: Gross overcrowding was reported to be a problem. The “Central Prison,” the only prison administered by Turkish Cypriots, is in the northern part of Nicosia and has an official capacity of 454 inmates. Authorities stated the number of prisoners and pretrial detainees at the “Central Prison” was 622 in October, after peaking at 633 earlier in the year, requiring the use of prison classrooms and computer rooms as cells for inmates. Press reported as many as 45 to 50 persons for every 10 square meters (107.6 square feet) living in unhygienic conditions. An NGO that visited both the “Central Prison” and detention centers reported conditions remained deplorable: asylum seekers complained about inadequate sleeping arrangements, poor hygienic conditions, insect infestation, poor ventilation, lack of heating and cooling systems, lack of access to fresh air or shower facilities, inadequate food, and no access to internet or phones. Asylum seekers at detention centers, as a general practice, were provided sandwiches twice a day.
NGOs, media, and the “ombudsman” reported overcrowding remained a problem. An NGO also reported receiving complaints about police mistreatment of detainees in police detention centers. Most of the complaints alleged inhuman conditions in the detention centers and that police officers verbally abused detainees. According to NGOs, the “Central Prison” did not effectively separate adults and juveniles, and there were no detention or correction centers for children. Due to lack of space, pretrial detainees and prisoners occupied the same cells. NGOs reported conditions were better in the women’s section of the prison.
NGOs reported that the lack of security cameras at detention centers and in parts of the “Central Prison” allowed police officers and prison guards to abuse detainees with impunity. In addition, NGOs reported that sanitation remained a significant problem in the “Central Prison,” with inadequate access to hot water. Authorities stated hygiene supplies were insufficient due to an increasing number of inmates. An NGO also reported the police detention facilities lack hygienic conditions, direct sunlight, proper ventilation, and access to water.
NGOs claimed that prison health care was inadequate, lacking sufficient medical supplies and a full-time doctor. NGOs reported testing for contagious diseases at the “Central Prison” was haphazard and inconsistent. In June 2020 the Prison Guards Association chair stated that overcrowding in prison cells created a breeding ground for contagious diseases. Authorities reported all inmates were subject to hospital health checks before entering the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated a doctor visited the prison twice a week and was on call for emergencies. A dentist visited the prison once per week, a dietician visited twice per week, and there were two full-time psychologists at the prison, according to authorities.
An NGO reported that the detention center at Ercan (Timbou) airport lacked proper ventilation and access to natural light. The NGO stated hygiene was a concern because there was only one bathroom inside each detention room and the rooms were not regularly cleaned.
An NGO reported that pandemic quarantine centers generally included cells where individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 were placed together with close contacts or travelers undertaking mandatory quarantine after their arrival in the country.
In October local press reported COVID-19 continued to spread at the “Central Prison,” with 125 inmates and eight guards testing positive for COVID-19 in one week. The COVID-19 positive inmates were first placed in a quarantine hotel and later transferred to a newly constructed – but at the time, not yet fully functional – prison meant to replace the “Central Prison.” After several days at the new prison, the inmates were sent back to another quarantine hotel as the infrastructure at the new prison was inadequate, including a lack of running water and closed-circuit cameras. Multiple media outlets reported the inmates did not have water for three days.
Administration: Authorities reported an investigation of a complaint regarding a prison guard’s mistreatment and battery against an inmate. Authorities reported there were no intentional or nonintentional deaths at the “Central Prison.” Authorities stated facilities were available for Muslim prisoners and detainees to conduct their religious observance but that due to space restrictions, inmates generally conducted their religious observance in their cells. No equivalent facilities or space was provided for non-Muslim prisoners to conduct religious observances, services, or prayers. Non-Muslim clergy were permitted to visit the prison, although there were no reports of such visits.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison monitoring but with some restrictions. An NGO reported the physical conditions at the “Central Prison” could not be observed in detail, as their staff were not allowed to visit the cells. They were only allowed to conduct detainee interviews in the visitor waiting room or in areas designated for private conversations.
Improvements: Authorities reported that the “Ministry of Health” provided disinfectant and masks to the “Central Prison” to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Authorities also reported that all prisoners and prison guards had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Authorities reported some inmates completed their high school education and exams online. While in-person visits were restricted due to the pandemic, inmates held video conferences with their families.
d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention
The “law” prohibits arbitrary arrest and detention and provides for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his or her arrest or detention in court. Authorities generally observed these requirements.
Arrest Procedures and Treatment of Detainees: “Judicial warrants” are required for arrests. According to the “law,” police must bring a detained person before a “judge” within 24 hours of arrest. Police can then keep the detainee in custody for up to three months, but a “judge” must review the detention after the third day and every eight days thereafter. Authorities generally respected this right and usually informed detainees promptly of charges against them, although they often held individuals believed to have committed a violent offense for longer periods without charge.
Bail may be granted by the “courts” and was routinely used. “Courts” confiscated detainees’ passports pending trial. Human rights contacts and an NGO reported that translators were not available for non-Turkish speakers, forcing defense attorneys or NGOs to provide one. As in previous years, according to an NGO and a human rights attorney, during the detention review process, officials pressured detainees to sign confessions in order to be released on bail. The lawyer cited situations in which police used the threat of prolonged detention to induce detainees to plead guilty.
According to the “constitution,” indicted detainees and prisoners have the right to access legal representation. Authorities usually allowed detainees prompt access to family members and a lawyer of their choice, but as in previous years, NGOs reported there were cases in which authorities prevented detainees from seeing a lawyer. Authorities provided lawyers to the indigent only in cases involving violent offenses. According to NGOs and human rights attorneys, police sometimes did not observe required legal protections, particularly at the time of arrest. Suspects who demanded the presence of a lawyer were sometimes physically intimidated or threatened with stiffer charges.
A lawyer reported a “Central Prison” “regulation” prohibits sentenced individuals in solitary confinement from meeting with a lawyer without the “prison director’s” permission. The “prison director” has the authority to deny the visit without providing justification.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The “law” provides for an independent judiciary, and authorities generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.
Most criminal and civil cases begin in “district courts,” whose decisions can be appealed to the “Supreme Court.” Civilian “courts” have jurisdiction in cases where civilians face charges of violating military restrictions, such as filming or photographing military zones.
The “law” provides for the right to a fair and public trial, and independent judicial authorities generally enforced this right.
Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence. NGO representatives and human rights lawyers stated defendants generally enjoyed the right to be informed promptly and in detail of the charges against them. The “constitution” provides for fair, timely, and public trials, the defendant’s right to be present at those trials, and the defendant’s right to consult with an attorney in a timely manner (or, in cases of violent offenses, to have one provided at public expense if unable to pay). The “attorney general’s office” reported the pandemic and COVID-19 mitigation measures delayed investigations, prosecutions, and court proceedings. The “attorney general’s office” reported the “courts” often chose to ban departure from the island or request a pecuniary guarantee in order to avoid sending pretrial detainees to prison for minor offenses.
There was insufficient free interpretation for some languages and insufficient professional translation in “courts.” Lawyers and NGOs claimed authorities haphazardly recruited nonprofessional translators who did not translate everything said during proceedings. Inadequate translation delayed hearings and prolonged defendants’ detentions.
Defendants may question prosecution witnesses and present evidence and witnesses on their behalf. They cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt, and they have a right to appeal.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
As in previous years, there were reports of detention and deportation to Turkey of persons with alleged ties to Fethullah Gulen and his movement. The Turkish government holds Gulen responsible for the 2016 coup attempt in Turkey and designated his network as the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization” (“FETO”).
According to press reports in March, police arrested an alleged Gulen movement member in the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” (“TRNC”) and transferred him to a Turkish General Directorate of Security Interpol-Europol team, who took him to Turkey.
In July 2020 the Turkish “ambassador” to the “TRNC” stated the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” was the first “foreign country” to define “FETO” as a terror organization and that cooperation between Turkish and “TRNC” authorities would continue toward identifying additional members of Gulen’s network.
Civil Judicial Procedures and Remedies
Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights abuses through domestic “courts.” After exhausting local remedies, individuals and organizations may appeal adverse decisions that involve human rights to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Property Seizure and Restitution
Greek Cypriots continued to pursue property suits against the Turkish government in the ECHR for the loss of property in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities since 1974.
A property commission handles claims by Greek Cypriots. As of November the commission had paid more than 318 million British pounds ($420 million) in compensation to applicants this year.
The Department of State’s Justice for Uncompensated Survivors Today (JUST) Act report to Congress, released publicly in July 2020, can be found on the Department’s website: https://www.state.gov/reports/just-act-report-to-congress/.
f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
The “law” prohibits such actions. There were reports that police subjected Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities to physical surveillance and monitoring, including police patrols and questioning. Greek Cypriot and Maronite residents reported that police required them to report their location and when they expected visitors. A Maronite representative asserted that Turkish armed forces continued to occupy 18 houses in the Maronite village of Karpasia.
Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
The “law” provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and authorities generally respected this right. Libel and blasphemy are criminalized, but these “laws” are rarely enforced by “courts.” While individuals were sometimes able to criticize authorities publicly without reprisal, human rights defenders, NGOs, and press reported a marked increase in harassment and threats against critics of the “TRNC government,” of Turkish interference into Turkish Cypriot affairs, and of Turkish President Erdogan.
Freedom of Expression: It is a criminal offense to insult the “government,” the Turkish government, or “government” officials. This often led journalists and others to self-censor. According to NGOs, journalists, and human rights defenders, authorities advised some journalists not to criticize the Turkish government. An NGO reported that due to perceived pressure and potential reaction from Turkey, some journalists did not express their critical opinions and preferred to remain silent. According to a survey conducted by the Center for Migration, Identity, and Rights Studies, 63 percent of respondents said freedom of speech had declined in the past year.
According to media reports and human rights defenders, police prevented opposition political parties, NGOs, and unions from assembling in front of the Turkish “embassy” on March 12 and March 21 to demonstrate against the arrest of Leftist Movement member Abdullah Korkmazhan. Following complaints from the Turkish Justice and Reform Party youth branch, authorities arrested Korkmazhan and three others on March 12 on suspicion of vandalizing “Love Erdogan” billboards. Korkmazhan was charged with “conspiracy to create a secret alliance” and released, only to be detained again on March 19 after making remarks critical of “president” Tatar during a subsequent protest. Korkmazhan said that police confiscated his cell phone and charged him with insulting the “TRNC president.” The “president” formally asked the court to sentence Korkmazhan to five years in prison. The court released him on bail for 25,000 Turkish lira ($2,717 as of mid-October) and ordered him to report in-person to a police station weekly. As of November Turkish Cypriot police still had Korkmazhan’s cell phone in their possession. In March Tatar filed another defamation and slander lawsuit against Korkmazhan, seeking compensation of 100,000 Turkish lira ($10,870 as of mid-October) for the speech he delivered at the protest against Tatar. The charges against Korkmazhan were pending at year’s end, and he reportedly continued to appear at a police station every week.
This Country is Ours Platform, an umbrella organization for more than 25 trade unions and political parties that supports a federal solution to the Cyprus problem, released a statement criticizing Turkey’s suppression of freedom of expression in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots. The Cyprus Press Council, a bicommunal umbrella organization for left-wing, pro-solution parties, issued a statement criticizing Korkmazhan’s arrest as an attempt to “muzzle” critics in northern Cyprus. In March several unions and left-wing political parties issued a joint statement expressing concern that increased suppression of freedom of expression in Turkey was having a spillover effect in the “TRNC.”
Freedom of Expression for Members of the Press and Other Media, Including Online Media: While authorities usually respected press and media freedom, at times they harassed, intimidated, or arrested journalists or otherwise obstructed their reporting.
In March the Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association and the Press Workers Union held a demonstration with approximately 200 participants in support of press freedom and freedom of expression. In their joint statement to the press, the association and the union stated there has been an increase of insults, pressure, mobbing, and violence against journalists in northern Cyprus, and that freedom of expression and freedom of the press was under threat.
Violence and Harassment: There were reports that defendants in some “court” cases allegedly threatened journalists, who also faced pressure to report favorably on companies that advertised in their publications.
A journalist association reported some journalists were verbally and physically attacked at “court” hearings by detainees or their families or friends. Other journalists reported being similarly assaulted while reporting at hospitals and police stations by individuals associated with detainees.
In October the Turkish Cypriot Journalist’s Association condemned the beating of journalist Suna Erden for attempting to photograph right-wing National Democratic Party leader Buray Buskuvutcu as he was entering the Kyrenia District “Court.” The association reported Erden was blocked by 15 individuals known to be Buskuvutcu’s security guards and physically attacked outside the “court.”
Censorship or Content Restrictions: Journalists cannot interview or report on persons under control of the armed forces.
Journalists practiced self-censorship to avoid losing their jobs. Journalists reported some press representatives censored themselves when reporting on Turkey’s role in Cyprus and on Turkish leadership. A labor union leader reported a journalist was dismissed from his job for reading and talking about an anti-Erdogan article on a local television channel operated by “president” Tatar’s wife.
Libel/Slander Laws: The “law” criminalizes libel and blasphemy, although “courts” often declined to convict defendants on those charges, citing free speech legal precedent.
Authorities did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that they monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
In July 2020 a cybercrime “law” was passed in “parliament” and approved by the “presidency.” According to the “law,” any verbal or physical attacks made with deliberate intent to harm individuals, institutions, or organizations over the internet is considered a crime. Human rights defenders expressed concern the new “law” could be used to suppress free speech. Penalties range from six to 200 times the minimum monthly wage and from one to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no reports of “government” restrictions on cultural events. There were no reports of blocked visits during the year; although, for much of the year, foreign tourists were not permitted to enter due to COVID-19-related restrictions.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The “government” sometimes limited freedoms of peaceful assembly and association.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
The “law” provides for the right of peaceful assembly, and the government usually respected this right, although some restrictions were reported. A labor union reported police sometimes interfered in demonstrations and at times used force against peaceful demonstrators.
Throughout the year, some union representatives reported police obstructed unions and civil society organizations from marching and opening banners in front of the Turkish “embassy” during demonstrations and protests. For example, according to local press reports, in March police prevented unions and associations from demonstrating in front of the “parliament” and the Turkish “embassy” on at least two occasions.
In August the NGO Voice of International Students in Cyprus (VOIS) reported some of its members and representatives of other student groups were allegedly threatened by police and prevented from issuing a press release in front of the “parliament.” After VOIS reportedly notified police that 10 to 15 students planned to read a press release in front of “parliament,” the student group declined a request from police to provide additional information about the planned demonstration. On the day of the protest, 20 to 30 police officers reportedly physically forced the students away from the area and told them they did not have the right to protest. Police allegedly told VOIS that according to “TRNC laws,” foreigners are not permitted to organize protests. The altercation ended with police allegedly threatening to arrest the students and to declare VOIS an illegal entity.
Freedom of Association
The “law” provides for the freedom of association, and the “government” usually respected this right.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement and the Right to Leave the Country
The “law” provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation. Authorities generally respected these rights.
In-country Movement: Authorities required individuals to show identification when crossing the “Green Line.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some checkpoint crossings on the island were closed during the year, at times causing altercations with authorities (see section 2.d. of the Republic of Cyprus report).
In January Turkish Cypriot workers who crossed the buffer zone daily to work in the government-controlled area of Cyprus held a series of demonstrations at “parliament” and at various buffer zone checkpoints. They protested the “Ministry of Health’s” COVID-19-related decision preventing Turkish Cypriot workers from crossing to the south of the Green Line for employment or other purposes without quarantine requirements.
Foreign Travel: Only Turkey recognizes travel documents issued by the “TRNC.” Some Turkish Cypriots used Turkish travel documents, but many obtained travel documents issued by the Republic of Cyprus government. Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to parents who were both Republic of Cyprus citizens prior to 1974 obtained Republic of Cyprus passports with greater ease than Turkish Cypriots born after 1974 to only one Cypriot parent.
According to media reports and contacts, Turkish authorities barred some Turkish Cypriot critics from entering Turkey in early July and in October. Contacts reported the Turkish “embassy” in the “TRNC” created a list of politicians and writers supportive of a bizonal bicommunal federal (BBF) Cyprus solution and who were critical of Ankara’s policies. Media commentators claimed Ankara’s enforcement of an “entry blacklist” – purportedly introduced in September 2020 – was intended to intimidate BBF solution supporters and silence opposition against the Erdogan regime. Citing national security grounds, Turkish authorities denied entry to former “president” Akinci’s press officer Ali Bizden on July 5, to Turkish Cypriot intellectual and pediatrician, Dr. Ahmet Cavit on July 9, and to the chair of Basin-Sen (the Press Workers’ Union) and journalist Ali Kismir on October 10. Turkish immigration officials told all three they were denied entry for posing a security threat to Turkey. All were reportedly interrogated upon arrival and held overnight at Istanbul airport before being flown back to northern Cyprus.
e. Status and Treatment of Internally Displaced Persons
Turkish Cypriots considered those displaced because of the island’s 1974 division to be refugees, although they fell under the UN definition of internally displaced persons (IDPs). At the time of the division, the number of IDPs in the north was approximately 60,000.
f. Protection of Refugees
Turkish Cypriot authorities at times cooperated with the Refugee Rights Association (RRA), the NGO implementing partner of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern. UNHCR reported cooperation was more frequent during the first half of the year, when authorities allowed RRA lawyers to interview Syrian asylum seekers seeking access to international protection in Cyprus. Following the introduction of a new “visa” requirement for Syrian nationals in June, cooperation between Turkish Cypriot authorities and UNHCR was less frequent. With the assistance of these organizations, several asylum seekers gained access to asylum procedures in Turkey or in the government-controlled area.
Turkish Cypriot authorities shared information with RRA for locating and identifying Syrian asylum seekers in detention or in quarantine pending deportation. Authorities allowed RRA to access quarantine centers holding Syrian asylum seekers. As a result of RRA’s advocacy, Syrian asylum seekers arriving irregularly from Turkey, Lebanon, or Syria are no longer prosecuted but are instead quarantined pending return to Turkey.
According to human rights advocates, the few refugees residing in the north face racism, exploitation, and challenges achieving self-sufficiency and integration within society.
Access to Asylum: The “law” does not provide for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and authorities have not established a system for providing protection to refugees. An NGO reported that approximately 100 persons of concern to UNHCR were able to stay in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots with UNHCR protection papers.
One NGO reported asylum seekers arriving at legal entry points are generally not allowed entry into the “TRNC,” are detained, and subsequently deported to Turkey. Once returned to Turkey, those that do not have valid residence status face the risk of onward refoulement, particularly non-Syrians, as Turkish authorities continued efforts to deport those it claimed entered the country illegally before they were granted refugee status-determination interviews by Turkish migration authorities. The NGO also reported asylum seekers arriving irregularly are considered prohibited migrants by Turkish Cypriot authorities and are detained under deportation procedures in quarantine facilities.
There were reports Turkish Cypriot authorities continued to deport numerous asylum seekers during the year before UNHCR’s implementing partner could interview them to obtain information necessary for assessing their asylum claims. Some potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities illegally were arrested, taken to “court,” and deported after serving their prison sentences. One NGO reported incidents of asylum seekers repeatedly being arrested for irregular entry as many as three times a week, and that these incidents went unreported in the press.
Refoulement: Authorities did not provide protection against the expulsion or return of asylum seekers or refugees to countries where their lives or freedom could be threatened. According to NGOs, authorities at ports often denied entry and extradited to Turkey asylum seekers, including a number of persons designated by the Turkish government as alleged members of the Gulen movement. Some observers considered these deportations refoulement, as the individuals were denied the opportunity to seek refuge in the territory of Cyprus and were at substantial risk of mistreatment in Turkey (also see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Turkey).
Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: UNHCR reported asylum seekers generally were treated as illegal migrants because an official framework for asylum does not exist in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Most were either denied entry or deported, irrespective of the risk of refoulement.
In April, 26 Syrian asylum seekers, two boat captains, and three other accomplices were arrested while illegally entering through the Sadrazamkoy coast, on the northwest side of the island. All 31 were detained and appeared in “court.” The 26 Syrians were quarantined in a student dormitory in Lefke. Following the RRA’s intervention and interviews, 11 individuals were provided with clothing by “social welfare services,” two persons were given access to health care, and one received medication. After 19 days the group was returned to Turkey where they were readmitted and reportedly given access to asylum procedures.
In June police arrested 13 Syrian nationals for illegal entry into the north. The Syrians, all men, were identified at the Famagusta port inside a truck on June 6. They had arrived in a cargo truck from Turkey’s Mersin province and were placed in a student dormitory under police control. After 12 days the group was sent back to Turkey and reportedly given access to asylum procedures.
On July 9, 17 irregular migrants from Syria were discovered on the Taslica coast between Derince and Avtepe in the Karpaz region. Media outlets reported the group included six children, four women, and seven men. Police stated that the boat carrying the migrants was found stranded on the coastline. Following RRA’s intervention and interviews, all individuals were provided with clothing by “social welfare services.” After 19 days the group was returned to Turkey where they were readmitted and reportedly given access to asylum procedures.
Freedom of Movement: Asylum seekers in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots could not travel abroad because they would be unable to return due to their lack of “legal” status.
Employment: According to immigration “law,” employers need official permission from the “Department of Labor” to register foreign workers. Persons holding UNHCR protection papers receive the same access to the labor market as third country nationals, although NGOs reported that authorities refused to issue work permits to some individuals with UNHCR protection papers. UNHCR reported access to employment improved during the year after authorities lifted requirements that job seekers post a financial guarantee and hold a valid passport.
Access to Basic Services: Persons holding UNHCR protection papers and persons of concern to UNHCR who had not gone through a status determination procedure but were found to be of concern after screening could access basic services, including primary health care and education, but lacked access to residence permits or welfare assistance, which rendered them at risk of exploitation and put vulnerable individuals at risk of destitution.
Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process
The “law” provides Turkish Cypriots the ability to choose their “government” in free and fair periodic elections held by secret ballot and based on universal and equal suffrage.
Elections and Political Participation
Recent Elections: Turkish Cypriots choose a leader and a representative body at least every five years. In 2018 Turkish Cypriots held “parliamentary elections” that observers considered free and fair. In October 2020 Turkish Cypriots elected Ersin Tatar as “president” in “elections” that were widely seen as influenced by pro-Tatar interference from Turkey.
Civil society leaders alleged the level of Turkish interference on behalf of Tatar’s candidacy was uncharacteristically high and led to the resignation of several Turkish Cypriot members from the bicommunal Technical Committee on Gender Equality.
According to reports by Turkish Cypriot journalists and statements by candidates during the year, Turkey’s interference in the “TRNC presidential” elections in October 2020 was significant. According to an investigative report by Turkish Cypriot journalist Esra Aygin published in June, the Turkish “embassy” in the “TRNC” and Turkish National Intelligence (MIT) pressured, threatened, and blackmailed former Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and his supporters, other candidates, and journalists during the election campaign. Aygin also reported receiving threats.
Aygin’s report, based on the work of a team of civil society representatives, lawyers, and researchers, showed “blatant interference by Ankara” in favor of Tatar. According to Aygin several journalists reported being pressured by Turkish officials who claimed they were in northern Cyprus to ensure Tatar’s election. In an interview with local media in July, former Turkish Cypriot leader Akinci alleged there was direct pressure, threats, and blackmailing from MIT and Turkey.
Political Parties and Political Participation: While membership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages, there were widespread allegations of political cronyism and nepotism.
On June 23, a consortium of Turkish Cypriot organizations spoke out against the “government” in the north concerning its acceleration of “TRNC citizenship” applications. This Country is Ours Platform criticized a decision to reorganize the “Ministry of Interior” in order to approve new passport applications more quickly.
In August opposition Republican Turkish Party “member of parliament” Asim Akansoy said the “Ministry of Interior” was rapidly granting citizenships and asked, “Is it true that 200 people are given citizenship with the approval of the Ministry, per day?” Akansoy criticized the “government” for remaining silent regarding the matter and implied the “government” sought to increase the pro-Turkey voting base by offering “citizenship” to newly arrived immigrants from Turkey.
Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: No “laws” limit participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. remained underrepresented in senior political positions. Nine of the 50 “members of parliament” were women.
Turkish Cypriot authorities did not permit Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north to participate in elections they administered. Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the north were eligible to vote in elections in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area but had to travel there to do so. Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities directly elected municipal officials, but Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize them. There was no minority representation in the 50-seat “parliament” or in the “cabinet.”
Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The “law” provides criminal penalties for corruption by “officials.” Authorities, however, did not implement the “law” effectively, and “officials” sometimes engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. There were numerous reports of “government” corruption during the year. Observers generally perceived corruption, cronyism, and lack of transparency to be serious problems in the legislative and executive branches.
Corruption: In July a civil servant working as a cashier at the “tax department” was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for embezzling one million Turkish lira ($108,700 as of mid-October) in driver’s license fees from 2016 to 2020. The “court” ordered a freeze on the cashier’s assets.
In September, six individuals, including a north Nicosia Police Station officer and an information technology (IT) specialist, were arrested for bribery and forging digital vaccine certificates. According to press reports, an unvaccinated police officer from Nicosia paid 650 Turkish lira ($70 as of mid-October) to the IT specialist to create a fake electronic vaccination certificate. The allegations arose after the IT specialist offered to create another fake vaccination certificate for another officer at the Kyrenia police station. Five of the suspects were released pending charges. The investigation continued at year’s end.
In 2019 local press outlets reported that former National Unity Party leader and then “prime minister” Huseyin Ozgurgun inaccurately declared his assets, according to an “attorney general” investigation. Ozgurgun was charged with failing to accurately declare wealth and for abusing public office for private gain. The “parliament” subsequently voted to remove Ozgurgun’s immunity. No trial has yet been held, as Ozgurgun has been living in Turkey since 2019. The “attorney general’s office” reported three lawsuits were pending against Ozgurgun at the Nicosia District Court at year’s end.
Section 5. Governmental Posture Towards International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Abuses of Human Rights
A limited number of domestic human rights organizations operated in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities. Authorities were rarely cooperative or responsive to their views and requests. NGOs promoted awareness of domestic violence; women’s rights; rights of asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants; trafficking in persons; police abuse; and the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersex (LGBTQI+) persons. These NGOs had little effect on changes to “legislation” to improve the protection of human rights. Local NGOs liaised with the United Nations, UNHCR, foreign diplomatic missions, representatives of the European Union, and international NGOs on human rights matters.
“Government” Human Rights Bodies: There is an “ombudsman,” whose portfolio includes human rights issues. The “ombudsman” investigates and reports on institutions that exercise administrative and executive powers and ensures that “legislation” and “court” decisions are properly implemented. The “ombudsman” can initiate investigations in response to media reports, complaints from individuals and organizations, or on its own initiative. The “ombudsman” was not always effective due to the lack of an enforcement mechanism.
Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses
Rape and Domestic Violence: The “law” criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape, and provides for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Authorities and police did not enforce the “law” effectively. No “laws” specifically address domestic violence. The “law” prohibits domestic violence under various assault and violence or battery clauses, with a maximum sentence of four years imprisonment.
Violence against women, including spousal abuse, remained a major problem. The Nicosia Turkish Municipality operated a shelter for victims of domestic violence, and there were local NGOs that supported rape and domestic violence victims. Turkish Cypriot authorities also reported establishing gender focal points at relevant “ministries” to respond to complaints of violence against women.
In March there were multiple reports of violence against women. One man was arrested in north Nicosia for beating his wife with a stick, another man was arrested for breaking a woman’s finger after a dispute concerning a divorce case at the “court” in Famagusta, and three persons (including a relative) were arrested for repeatedly raping a 17-year-old girl. The girl was seven-and-a-half months pregnant.
According to a survey of local women conducted by the Nicosia Turkish Municipality’s Side by Side Against Violence Project in February 2020, 60 percent of women were subjected to psychological violence, and 40 percent of women were subjected to physical violence. Survey results also showed that one out of every four women had been exposed to sexual violence and one out of every four women had been exposed to economic violence – defined by the project as the manipulation of economic resources or money as a means of sanction, intimidation, or control over women. Two out of every 10 women had been threatened with physical violence.
Nicosia district police in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots operated the specialized Combating Violence against Women Unit to respond to complaints of domestic violence, including calls to a dedicated hotline.
According to the Combatting Violence against Women Unit, 871 women filed complaints to the unit’s hotline seeking help between January-October. In 2020 a total of 1,063 women called the hotline and filed complaints or sought help.
In October the Coordination Center for Combating Domestic Violence, a joint effort of the “government,” the Nicosia Turkish Municipality Shelter House, police, and the SOS Children’s orphanage held a special training session on domestic violence for 100 police officers from the Combating Violence against Women Unit.
In November, Meral Akinci, Chair of the Association for Women who Support Living (KAYAD) reported that according to KAYAD’s research, one in every five women surveyed suffered from domestic violence. Akinci added that the survey indicated one in five women suffered from economic abuse in the form of spouses either seizing their salary or applying for a bank loan in their name without their consent.
Sexual Harassment: The “criminal code” prohibits sexual harassment and considers it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment, an unspecified fine, or both. According to NGOs, sexual harassment went largely unreported. The NGO Voice of International Students in Cyprus (VOIS) reported widespread sexual harassment of female international students and noted that police routinely dismissed complaints of sexual harassment from international students. The organization reported in March that an international student was raped by her landlord’s friend. The perpetrator allegedly tried to bribe the victim to keep her from reporting the incident to police. Although the victim sought help from local NGOs, as of year’s end, police had not opened an investigation.
Reproductive Rights: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization on the part of “government” authorities.
Authorities did not provide access to sexual and reproductive health services for survivors of sexual violence. No publicly funded services were available to survivors of sexual violence. Emergency contraception was not available as part of clinical management of rape.
Some doctors in the private and public sectors required women to have their husband’s consent to proceed with sterilization, although the law does not require such consent.
According to KAYAD, women living in northern Cyprus did not have free access to contraception, one out of every four women was under pressure from their spouse not to use contraception, and abortion services were not provided at public hospitals upon request.
Discrimination: The “law” provides the same “legal” status and rights for women and men, but authorities did not enforce the “law” effectively. Women experienced discrimination in such areas as employment, credit, owning or managing businesses, education, and housing. For example, female teachers were reportedly instructed to schedule their pregnancies in order to deliver during summer break. Some female teachers working at private schools were dismissed from their duties for being pregnant during or at the beginning of the school year.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The “TRNC Constitution” prohibits discrimination. According to the “constitution,” “Every person shall be equal before the ‘constitution’ and the law without any discrimination. No privileges shall be granted to any individual, family, group, or class. The organs and the administrative authorities of the ‘State’ are under an obligation to act in conformity with the principle of equality before the law and not to make any discrimination in their actions.”
Despite the “law,” authorities rarely acted on incidents regarding racial or ethnic discrimination. According to human rights contacts, most of these incidents went unreported in part because victims did not expect authorities to open an investigation.
The “law” prohibits discrimination, and the 1975 Vienna III Agreement remains the legal source of authority regarding the treatment of the 310 Greek Cypriot and 62 Maronite residents in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.
There is discrimination against Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. They could take possession of some of their properties in that area but were unable to leave their properties to heirs residing in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area. Maronites living in the Republic of Cyprus-controlled area could use their properties in the north only if those properties were not under the control of the Turkish military or had not been allocated to Turkish Cypriots.
Foreign domestic workers faced discrimination and, at times, violence.
As in previous years, the Turkish Cypriot Public Sector Workers Union (KTAMS) reported that many foreign workers receive salaries below minimum wage.
There were reports of social and job discrimination against Kurds in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots, as well as allegations that police closely monitored Kurdish activities.
Some of the approximately 10,000 African students reportedly studying at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities reported racial discrimination in housing, employment, and interactions with authorities. Thirty to forty thousand foreign students, excluding Turkish students, study at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. The NGO VOIS stated authorities excluded foreign students from receiving food packages that were distributed to citizens during the pandemic. VOIS claimed that authorities ignored foreign students and deprived them of medical and other support during the lockdown and pandemic. VOIS also reported that measures and restrictions, as well as digital vaccine passes were initially only available in Turkish and that dormitories for students who tested COVID-19 were in poor condition, unhygienic, and lacked food services. VOIS stated obtaining support in anything but Turkish at the pandemic hospital, quarantine centers, and COVID-19 hotline was “nearly impossible.”
Birth Registration: Children derive “citizenship” from their parents, and there was universal registration at birth, including of children born to migrants.
Child Abuse: The “law” does not explicitly prohibit child abuse, but it does prohibit sexual abuse of children, which carries a penalty of up to six years imprisonment. There were reports of child abuse. As with domestic violence, there were social and cultural disincentives to seeking legal remedies for such problems.
Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: The minimum age of marriage for girls and boys is 18. A “court” may allow marriages of minors who are 16 or 17 if they receive parental consent.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The “law” prohibits commercial sexual exploitation of children, and authorities generally enforced the prohibition. The age of consent is 16. Statutory rape or attempted statutory rape of a minor younger than 16 is a felony, and the maximum penalty is life imprisonment. If the offender is younger than 18 and less than two years apart in age from the victim, the crime is a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, an unspecified fine, or both. A cybercrime “law” enacted in July 2020 makes possession or production of child pornography punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
There were approximately 150 persons in the Jewish community, which primarily consisted of nonresident businesspersons. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
In July police opened an investigation at two private hospitals after receiving information that a young woman had sold her ovaries. Police arrested six persons, including three doctors, a lab technician, and two donors. Police also confiscated documents, computers, and records from the hospitals. According to police reports, two donors sold their ovaries for 3,500 Turkish lira ($380 as of mid-October) each. One of the donors reported the transaction to police after experiencing health concerns. An investigation continued at year’s end.
Persons with Disabilities
The “law” protects the rights of persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities, including their access to social benefits, and prohibits discrimination against them. Authorities did not effectively enforce all parts of the “law.” Persons with disabilities could not access education, health services, public buildings, and transportation on an equal basis with others. For example, advocates complained of the absence of accessible infrastructure in public areas, including lack of sidewalks, blocked sidewalks, and inaccessible public transportation.
The Turkish Cypriot Orthopedic Disabled Persons Association reported many buildings, sidewalks, and public bathrooms were not accessible to persons with disabilities. The association claimed the “government” had failed to meet the requirement in “law” that 4 percent of public-sector positions be filled by persons with disabilities. In a press statement in May, the chair of the Cyprus Turkish Federation of the Disabled, Dervis Yuceturk, reported there were 660 disabled individuals living in the “TRNC” who were “waiting for employment and support.” Yuceturk stated 800 disabled individuals had been employed under the “Protection, Rehabilitation and Employment Law for the Disabled” and that more than 5,000 disabled individuals have received cash assistance. Yuceturk stated, “We regret that we still have not reached the point we want in terms of employment or assistance. We regret to see that we are still far behind in our fight for a humane life, and that we are far below European standards.”
Children with disabilities attend specific schools that are “state” funded.
Authorities reported that as of August, 260 persons with disabilities worked in the “government.” Authorities also reported that as of August, 5,035 persons with disabilities received financial aid from the “government.”
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The “law” prohibits discrimination against LGBTQI+ persons based on sexual orientation or gender identity in housing, employment, nationality laws and access to government services. According to the “criminal code,” it is a minor offense for a civil servant employee to discriminate against any person based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law.”
While there were no reported cases of official or societal discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in employment, housing, or access to education or health care, members of the LGBTQI+ community noted an overwhelming majority of LGBTQI+ persons concealed their sexual orientation or gender identity to avoid potential discrimination.
The Queer Cyprus Association reported LGBTQI+ persons often could not access legal remedies to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity because authorities declined to enforce them.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The “law” protects the rights of workers, except members of police and other Turkish Cypriot security forces, to form and join independent unions of their own choosing without prior authorization. The “law” allows unions to conduct their activities without interference and provides for their right to strike, with the provision that a union notify authorities in writing if members planned to strike for longer than 24 hours. The “law” does not permit “judges,” members of the police force, or other Turkish Cypriot security forces to strike. The “council of ministers” has the power to prohibit a strike in any individual sector twice a year for up to 60 days if it affects the general health, security, or public order, or if it prevents the provision of essential services. There is no list of what constitutes essential services.
The “law” provides for collective bargaining. The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” reported that employers could not condition employment on membership or non-membership in a union or participation in strikes. The “law” does not provide for reinstatement of workers fired for union activities.
The “government” did not effectively enforce applicable “laws.” Despite having freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining, very few private-sector workers were unionized, according to labor union representatives. A union representative stated that if private-sector workers affected business operations while exercising their rights, employers would likely dismiss them. Some companies pressured workers to join unions that the company led or approved. Officials of independent unions claimed authorities created public-sector unions as rivals to compete with and weaken independent unions.
KTAMS reported that 35 percent of public sector and 0.5 percent of private sector workers were members of labor unions. According to KTAMS approximately 28 percent of the workforce in Turkish Cypriot administered areas was unionized.
Labor authorities did not effectively enforce the “law.” Penalties for employers convicted of violating the “law” were not commensurate with those for violating other “laws” involving the denial of civil rights and were sporadically enforced.
Public and semipublic employees benefited from collective bargaining agreements. Semipublic employees worked for companies run jointly by public and private enterprises where, for example, the “government” handled administration while the company’s budget came from private sources.
b. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The “law” prohibits all forms of forced or compulsory labor, but the “government” did not effectively enforce it. Penalties for violations of the “law” were not commensurate with those for other serious crimes.
Authorities reported they did not receive any complaints regarding forced labor during the year. NGOs and unions stated there were reports of forced labor during the year, primarily in agriculture, construction, and the industrial sector. A labor union representative reported migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors were subjected to reduced wages, nonpayment of wages, beatings, and threats of deportation. Another labor union reported that some foreign workers, mainly in the construction and industrial sectors, were forced to work long periods up to 12 hours without additional compensation or pay. The union also reported that some foreign workers were paid less than the minimum wage.
A researcher reported that universities were used to smuggle or traffic large numbers of Africans and South Asians. Some foreign students who could not pay their tuition after arriving in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots became vulnerable to exploitation, including forced labor, and victims of labor and human trafficking.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
c. Prohibition of Child Labor and Minimum Age for Employment
The “law” prohibits the worst forms of child labor. The minimum age for restricted employment is 15, the last year at which education is compulsory. Employers may hire children between the ages of 15 and 18 in apprentice positions under a special status. Children older than 15 are restricted to no more than six hours of work per day and 30 hours per week. The “law” prohibits children between the ages of 15 and 18 from working during mealtimes, at night, in heavy physical labor, and under dangerous conditions. The “law” also states that every six months the employer must prove, with medical certification, that the physical work done by a child is suitable for children. Written parental consent is also required, and children are entitled to the hourly wage of a full-time employee.
Authorities reported they received three complaints to the child labor hotline in 2020 but that subsequent inspections did not reveal any children working onsite.
The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing child labor “laws” and policies. Inspections were not sufficient and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those of other serious crimes.
Authorities did not always effectively enforce the “laws,” and NGOs reported that primarily children of Turkish immigrants often worked alongside their families in the agricultural, manufacturing, automotive, and construction sectors. NGOs reported that some children worked in dangerous conditions, such as on construction sites, and were subjected to heavy physical work despite “legal” prohibitions.
Child labor in the urban informal economy was also a problem, but to a lesser extent than in agriculture and manufacturing. In family-run businesses, it was common for children to work after school in shops and for young children to work on family farms.
In July the Turkish Cyprus Pediatric Institution reported there was lack of inspection and supervision at workplaces and inadequate laws to protect against child labor in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots. The institution also reported the death of a 15-year-old boy who died in July while working at a car mechanic’s garage in the Morphou region. The “Ministry of Labor” announced an investigation into the incident. The investigation continued at year’s end.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The “law” generally prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation on the basis of race, sex, gender, disability, language, sexual orientation or gender identity, and social status. The “law” does not specifically address discrimination with respect to religion, political opinion, or HIV-positive status, which were addressed by general “regulations.” Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law,” and penalties for violations were not commensurate with those for violating other “laws” related to civil rights. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, disability, and gender.
Authorities reported there were more than 38,340 registered foreign workers (24,711 Turkish citizens and 13,629 from other countries) in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriot authorities. These workers were mainly from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey, and Turkmenistan. Foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, and religious belief. Although it was uncommon for Greek Cypriots to seek employment in northern Cyprus, they faced social and employment discrimination when they did.
Women faced sexual harassment in the workplace, but most instances of sexual harassment went unreported. Women held far fewer managerial positions than men.
LGBTQI+ individuals often concealed their sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace to avoid discrimination. Persons with disabilities routinely found it physically difficult to access workplaces.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Wage and Hour Laws: The “government” increased the minimum wage during the year, but it remained below the poverty level for a family of four, as inflation and the cost of living outpaced the increase. The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing the minimum wage, but it did not effectively do so. The number of inspectors was not sufficient for enforcement. The penalties for noncompliance were not commensurate with those for other similar crimes.
As of September the minimum monthly wage in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots was 4,324 Turkish lira ($470 as of mid-October). According to labor unions, this is below the poverty line. As of September KTAMS reported the poverty line for family of four was 4,470 Turkish lira ($485 as of mid-October).
According to a labor union, per capita income fell from $12,649 to $10,055, a level not seen since 2005.
There was premium pay for overtime in the public sector. Premium pay for overtime is also required in the private sector, but it is frequently not paid. The “law” prohibits compulsory overtime and provides for paid annual holidays.
Occupational Safety and Health: Occupational safety and health standards were insufficient. Authorities did not effectively enforce safety and health standards, and the number of inspectors was not sufficient to enforce compliance. Multinational companies reportedly met health and safety standards. Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Authorities could conduct unannounced inspections or initiate sanctions, but according to unions and associations, inspections were not adequately or routinely carried out. Authorities commonly deported migrant workers who reported violations. Authorities did not penalize violators, and inspections were not adequate to protect worker rights. Accommodations for migrant workers, either as part of their compensation or for those made to pay, were substandard.
Authorities reported there were 143 major industrial accidents during the year that caused five deaths.
In April, six public sector worker unions filed a case at the “Constitutional Court” to obtain an interim order to stop a “government” statutory decree from freezing cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for four months. Public sector worker unions, including KTAMS, KAMUSEN, KAMU-IS, GUC-SEN, VERGI-SEN, and the Nurses Union, claimed the COLA freeze was illegal. In June the “Constitutional Court” decided in favor of the unions and cancelled the decree.
Informal Sector: The “government” has not established social protections for workers in the informal economy.