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 interference from Turkey in favor of Tatar’s candidacy. On January 23, voters elected 50 “members of parliament” in elections assessed as free but influenced by interference from Turkey. 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 generally maintained effective control over the security forces. There were nonetheless reports that members of the security forces committed abuses.
Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: serious restrictions on freedom of 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; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of national and racial minorities, including foreign domestic workers and international students; and trafficking in persons.
Authorities took some steps to investigate officials following allegations of human rights abuses and corruption. There was evidence, however, of widespread 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, and Other Related Abuses
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.
The “attorney general’s office” reported it launched investigations into four complaints during the year concerning “police” battery and use of excessive force.
The “attorney general’s office” closed two investigations into “police” misconduct from 2021 without taking further action after it could not confirm the claims of independent witnesses.
An NGO reported that two cases of “police” brutality against asylum seekers while staying at a dormitory under “police” custody; one of the asylum seekers was mistreated for not speaking in Turkish, and the second was mistreated in an attempt by “police” to extract information.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
Prison and detention center conditions did not meet international standards in several areas, including overcrowding, sanitary conditions, medical care, heating, and access to food. An NGO reported asylum seekers were detained in overcrowded, “government”-run detention centers pending their return to Turkey.
In March the Turkish Cypriot Public Sector Workers Union (KTAMS) called on the “government” to address guard shortages at the Nicosia “Central Prison.”
In November authorities announced completion of the transfer of all inmates and pretrial detainees to a new “Central Prison,” fully financed by the Republic of Turkey, with an official capacity of 725 inmates. Authorities began using the old “Central Prison,” with an official capacity of 455 inmates, to house asylum seekers and migrant offenders, according to NGOs.
In a November “parliamentary” speech, People’s Party “member of parliament” Aysegul Baybars said juveniles at the new “Central Prison” were kept together with adult inmates. She claimed inmates were “sleeping and eating on the floors” and were not allowed to purchase personal hygiene products in the new “central prison.” Baybars also said families of inmates were not allowed to bring new clothes to the inmates, nor did the inmates have opportunities to wash their clothes.
An NGO that visited both the old “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 telephones. Asylum seekers at detention centers, as a general practice, were provided sandwiches twice a day.
Abusive Physical Conditions: NGOs and the media reported overcrowding remained a problem throughout detention facilities. An NGO 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, neither the old nor new “Central Prison” effectively separated 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. One NGO reported that conditions were better in the women’s sections of the prison and detention centers because they held fewer inmates.
NGOs reported that the lack of security cameras at detention centers and in parts of the old and new “Central Prison” allowed “police” officers and prison guards to abuse detainees with impunity. NGOs further reported that the security cameras at the old “Central Prison” did not feed directly to the “Ministry of the Interior,” allowing significant prisoner abuse to occur as tapes were revised or edited on site.
Sanitation remained a significant problem in the old and new “Central Prison,” according to NGOs, with inadequate access to water, plumbing problems, and a lack of beds, telephones, and cleaning material. Authorities stated hygiene supplies were insufficient due to an increasing number of inmates.
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 old “Central Prison” was haphazard and inconsistent.
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.
According to an October interview by a Turkish Cypriot NGO with a detainee at the Nicosia “Police” Station detention center, transgender individuals are held at the “police” station during the entirety of the investigative process, which by law can extend to three months. The NGO reported one detainee was held in a cell less than three meters square without ventilation, fresh air, or windows. Detainees slept on pieces of hardwood with a blanket. The detainee claimed to have no access to showers; authorities, however, claimed detainees could shower.
Administration: In July one male inmate died while in detention by unknown causes. At year’s end, authorities reported that “police” had sent blood and tissue samples to Turkey for toxicology examination in their ongoing investigation into his death. A separate “police” investigation in July attributed the death of a woman inmate at the old “Central Prison” to pathological cerebral hemorrhage.
Authorities stated that the prayer room in the old “Central Prison” was used as a cell, forcing inmates to conduct religious observance in their own cells, however, religious observance facilities were available for Muslim prisoners and detainees at the new “Central Prison.” 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.
One NGO reported that Syrian women asylum seekers detained at the “Central Prison” were not allowed to wear head coverings for religious purposes.
Independent Monitoring: Authorities generally permitted prison monitoring with some restrictions. An NGO reported the physical conditions at the old and new “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.
In October the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association requested permission from authorities to visit the new “Central Prison” but did not receive a response.
Authorities reported that during the year representatives from embassies, unions, and charity organizations visited the old “Central Prison.”
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” may 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 observers 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 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.
In October Human Rights Platform (HRP) reported a detainee who only spoke Greek was forced to sign her testimony and other relevant documents with only English translation, and the detainee stood before the “court” without a Greek translator. When the HRP lawyer raised the problem, the “judge” requested an official Greek translator to be present at all “court” hearings. The “court” administration failed to provide a Greek translator during the second hearing but did provide one for the following hearing. “Court” administration attributed the lack of translator at the first trial to staffing schedules.
Arbitrary Arrest: Union members reported that during peaceful demonstrations in front of the “parliament” and other “government” buildings, “police” arrested union members to spread fear and intimidate protesters. In August, “police” filed cases against 22 members of teacher unions KTÖS and KTOEÖS for allegedly “preventing the ‘police’ from doing their job” in front of the “Ministry of Education.” Teachers denied the accusations, stating they were engaging in peaceful demonstrations. At years end, the cases had not been filed in the “courts” nor had a hearing been scheduled.
In May “police” detained the Chair of the Animal Growers and Breeders Union and five other farmers after they attempted to pour animal manure in protest in front of the Turkish Cypriot “Presidential Palace.” The farmers were charged with insulting the “president” and polluting the environment. The case was pending before the “court” at year’s end.
Turkish Cypriot authorities used unequally applied and poorly publicized “laws” to silence dissent. In September, Greek Cypriot Andreas Soudjis was sentenced to one month in jail for allegedly taking photographs of a restricted military zone. Soudjis and his lawyer reported the photographs were of abandoned buildings in Varosha. In a separate “court” hearing, Soudjis was also found guilty at the Iskele civil “court” for the possession of an unlicensed walkie talkie. Soudjis was released in October. Turkish Cypriot officials banned him from crossing into the north.
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.
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.
Political Prisoners and Detainees
There were reports of charges lodged against 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 “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (“FETO”).
In October a “court” in Nicosia acquitted Cetin Sahmaran of charges of being a “police imam” of the “FETO” in the “TRNC,” finding no strong evidence against him.
In May charges of “possessing banned books” and of “being members of an illegal organization” allegedly connected to the PKK were dismissed against Bengul Garginsu and her daughter Simge Alici. The two had been under a travel ban since the investigation against them began in 2019.
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 claims 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. The commission paid more than 367 million British pounds ($452 million) in compensation to applicants during the 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, but authorities did not respect 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 the press reported a marked increase in harassment and threats against critics of the “TRNC president,” “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.
In August authorities began a criminal investigation against academic Hasan Ulas Altiok and journalist Sener Levent for allegedly “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and for attempting to harm the relations between Turkey and the “TRNC” in an article published in the newspaper Avrupa (formerly Afrika).
Charges against Leftist Movement member Abdullah Korkmazhan and three others on suspicion of vandalizing “Love Erdogan” billboards in 2021 were pending at year’s end. Charged with “conspiracy to create a secret alliance” and insulting the “TRNC president,” Korkmazhan was released on bail but was required to report to a “police” station weekly.
Censorship or Content Restrictions 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. According to NGOs, journalists, and human rights defenders, authorities advised some journalists not to criticize the Turkish president or 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 human rights NGO, authorities launched criminal cases in December 2021 against Avrupa newspaper journalists Sener Levent, Faize Ozdemirciler, and Ali Osman based on a complaint from the Turkish “embassy” in Nicosia. The three are accused of writing with “malicious intent” and spreading “fear and concern” based on articles published in 2019 and 2020. There were seven criminal cases ongoing against Avrupa newspaper at year’s end.
In February authorities launched an investigation against journalist and President of the Turkish Cypriot Press Workers Union (Basin-Sen) Ali Kismir for allegedly “insulting and defaming” security forces in an early 2021 article. The case was ongoing at year’s end.
In April Rasih Resat, former chief editor for Kibris Postasi, announced his resignation from his position as the head of the Foreign Press Association after “President” Ersin Tatar complained to Turkey about the content of his writings.
In May the Turkish Cypriot Bar Association, the Turkish Cypriot Journalists Association, and press workers’ unions criticized the “government” and staged a “24-Hour Press Freedom” demonstration in response to “parliament’s” support of draft amendments that would narrow press freedom and freedom of expression. Labor unions under the Social Existence Platform held a two-hour strike, and journalists attended a “parliament” session with black tape covering their mouths. The “prime minister” then announced withdrawal of the draft amendments and establishment of a “parliamentary” working group to discuss and revise the amendments. Journalists reported continued concern that these amendments may pass without consultation with relevant stakeholders.
Journalists may not interview or report on persons under control of the armed forces.
In June press reported that Turkish Cypriot Web TV, owned by businessperson Tandogan Tanli, fired Turkish Cypriot journalist Ulas Baris for expressing support on the site for journalists’ “free press” demonstrations against the “government.”
In November authorities arrested Avrupa newspaper journalist Kazim Denizci and charged him with “aiding a terrorist organization” by simply sharing a Kurdish article on his social media page. “Police” also searched Denizci’s home and seized his mobile phone and his computer for further investigation. Opposition political parties and NGOs condemned the detention as an attack on freedom of press.
Libel/Slander Laws: The “law” criminalizes libel and blasphemy. Authorities regularly use these laws to justify suppression of free speech.
In May “President” Tatar filed a criminal defamation suit against Communal Democracy Party Chair and lawyer Mine Atli for a Facebook post where Atli referred to Tatar as “dishonorable and inglorious.” Tatar claimed Atli’s May 10 Facebook post insulted him. Atli told the press Tatar was trying to restrict criticism towards elected officials by spreading fear among the people. Atli’s lawyers argued that the Facebook post falls under freedom of expression protections. Atli was released on bail but faces up to five years in prison.
In a May interview, “President” Tatar said insults directed at an individual were not protected under freedom of expression, and stated he would continue to take legal action against insults.
In August Yudum Mison appeared in “court” on charges of insulting “President” Tatar in a social media post sharing a photograph of Tatar in a helicopter where Tatar was seen laughing before he visited a wildfire area. Mison commented, “Rascal!!! His brother is here!!! He is very happy. So what if the country burns!!” According to a human rights organization, “police” confiscated Mison’s mobile phone and reportedly confirmed with university language experts that Mison’s post contained language insulting to the “TRNC Presidency office” and “President” Tatar. The “judge” moved the case to trial and released Mison on bail.
Nongovernmental Impact: 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.
A journalist association reported that journalists were prevented from reporting and taking photographs at “court” by acquaintances of the accused assailants being tried for the February murder of businessperson Halil Falyali.
Journalists also faced pressure to report favorably on companies that advertised in their publications.
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.
According to a 2020 cybercrime “law,” any verbal or physical attacks made with deliberate intent to harm individuals, institutions, or organizations over the internet is considered a crime punishable by substantial fines and from one to 10 years’ imprisonment. Human rights defenders expressed concern the “law” could be used to suppress free speech.
Restrictions on 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.
In June Middle East Technical University (METU) northern Cyprus campus dismissed Associate Professor and Chair of the KAMPUS-SEN union Yonca Ozdemir after 15 years on staff, claiming “poor academic performance.” Both Ozmedir and education union representatives claimed METU intended to silence KAMPUS-SEN and dismissed Ozmedir for signing the “Academics for Peace Declaration” and for her known support for a federation solution to the Cyprus Problem. According to Ozdemir, METU had called her political views dangerous. Ozdemir said she was also dismissed for criticizing Turkey-“TRNC” relations and Turkey’s interference into “TRNC” domestic affairs.
b. Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The “law” provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, but the “government” regularly limited the freedom of peaceful assembly.
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
A labor union reported “police” sometimes interfered in demonstrations and at times used force against peaceful demonstrators. Other NGOs reported that “police” use obscure laws and requirements for permits to interrupt protests. Authorities at times authorities used threats of legal action or expanded “police” presence to discourage protests.
Throughout the year, some union representatives reported “police” obstructed unions and civil society organizations from demonstrating in front of “parliament” and marching and opening banners in front of the Turkish “embassy” during demonstrations and protests.
In August press reported that the “government” used “police” to keep protesters away from “parliament” during debate of the “Municipal Reform Law.” Municipal union workers and other opposition engaged in tense and heated demonstrations over local administration reforms, at times clashing with “police.” Opposition “members of parliament” accused the “government” of “putting the ‘police’ and the public against each other.” According to opposition politicians and media reports, “police” prevented municipal vehicles from entering Nicosia or approaching “parliament,” blocked intersections and roads to prevent demonstrators from gathering in front of “parliament” and the Turkish “Embassy,” and detained municipal employees attempting to protest. In response to the vehicle blockade, “Mayor” of Karpaz Municipality Suphi Coskun and “municipal” workers announced that they would walk to Nicosia.
During a November 9 visit to the ongoing construction of a new, Turkish-funded “presidential palace,” Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay suggested opponents of the project would find themselves in legal trouble. A Turkish Cypriot activist claimed that this veiled threat and an overwhelming “police” presence suppressed public participation in a November 12 demonstration against the project.
c. Freedom of Religion
See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at https://www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.
d. Freedom of Movement
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, certain measures were taken at checkpoint crossings on the island in the beginning of the year, at times causing altercations with authorities. As of years end, there were no COVID-19 requirements or measures when crossing checkpoints.
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 six Turkish Cypriots from entering Turkey during the year, in addition to three Turkish Cypriots who were barred in 2021. Contacts reported the Turkish “embassy” in the “TRNC” maintained a list of politicians and writers supportive of a bizonal bicommunal federal (BBF) solution to the division of the island and who were critical of the Turkish government’s policies. Media commentators claimed Turkey’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 Republican Turkish Party “member of parliament” Okan Dagli on February 25; musician Can Sozer on May 23; Leftist Movement and peace activist General Secretary Abdullah Korkmazhan on June 27; journalist Aysu Basri Akter on July 25; Deputy General Secretary of the Road to Independence Party Munur Rahvancioglu on September 27; and chief editor of Havadis newspaper Basaran Duzgun on November 16.
e. 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 to provide protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, or asylum seekers, as well as other persons of concern.
Access to territory was not ensured for persons seeking international protection who arrive regularly at the airport or ports if authorities believe their intention is to seek asylum. UNHCR contacts reported that deportations occurred via Turkey. From Turkey, those without legal residence status face onward refoulement.
RRA reported that authorities shared information regarding detained Syrian asylum seekers and allowed NGOs access for interviews, delivery of social welfare, and health-care services. According to RRA, in February authorities resumed criminalizing illegal entry by asylum seekers after pausing the practice during the pandemic. Persons of concern who legally entered the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots were able to work through RRA to regularize their residence and have deportation orders against them lifted or frozen. In these cases, persons of concern had access to public health-care services, employment, and benefitted from material assistance provided by public social welfare services.
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. UNHCR reported that Turkish Cypriot authorities generally treated asylum seekers as illegal migrants due to the lack of an official framework for asylum. An NGO reported that approximately 140 persons of concern to UNHCR were able to stay in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots with UNHCR protection papers.
According to an NGO, asylum seekers arriving at legal entry points are generally not allowed entry into the “TRNC,” and are detained and subsequently deported to Turkey. Once returned to Turkey, those who 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. Potential asylum seekers who attempted to enter the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities illegally were typically arrested, taken to “court,” and deported after serving their prison sentences.
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 several 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 (see section 2.f., Protection of Refugees, in the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for Turkey).
Abuse of Migrants and Refugees: According to human rights advocates, refugees residing in the “TRNC” face racism, exploitation, and challenges achieving self-sufficiency and integration within society. One NGO reported observing long detention periods for asylum seekers pending deportation or prosecution. One NGO reported Syrians that arrived irregularly were detained on average for 31 days prior to deportation. Syrians that were smuggled into the “TRNC” were, however, detained as long as six months in crude jails below “police” stations. Authorities attributed the long detention period as necessary in the event charges were filed against their smuggler, for which they would serve as witnesses.
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 under the “law” 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.
Access to Basic Services: Persons holding UNHCR protection papers could access basic services, including primary health care, social services, 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. Access to these services and assistance was administered on a case-by-case basis, with some individuals being turned away and forced to apply multiple times depending on whether staff had experience working with UNHCR persons of concern.
f. 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.
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: The “law” provides for election of a leader every five years. Similarly, election of “parliamentary” representatives occurs five years. On January 23, voters elected 50 “members of parliament” in free elections widely viewed as influenced by interference from 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.
On June 7, a Turkish Cypriot “court” sentenced BRTK “State” television and Broadcasting Corporation “Director” Meryem Ozkurt to nearly three months in prison for broadcasting a ceremony marking the completion of a Turkish-financed water repair project during the 2020 “presidential” election campaign period, a ceremony where “TRNC” officials gave remarks. According to the “court,” the broadcast favored then candidate, now “President” Tatar, violating restrictions on broadcasting such “state” ceremonies during the campaign coverage moratorium leading up to election day and despite warnings from the “Higher Election Council.” Ozkurt defended her actions, noting “TRNC” politicians had told her Turkish Cypriot “officials” would not offer remarks during the ceremony. Tatar slammed the “court” decision and said “competent authorities” would take necessary action. Opposition unions and NGOs criticized the “government” and Tatar for “not being punished” due to their immunity.
Political Parties and Political Participation: While membership in the dominant party did not confer formal advantages, there were widespread allegations of corruption, political cronyism, and nepotism.
Opposition parties and unions accused the “government” of attempting to increase the pro-Turkey voting base by offering “citizenship” to newly arrived immigrants from Turkey. Throughout the year, Turkish Cypriot organizations spoke out against the “government” in the north concerning its acceleration of “TRNC citizenship” applications. The “This Country is Ours Platform” continued to criticize a reorganization decision by the “Ministry of the Interior” to expedite new passport applications. In October Yeniduzen newspaper reported that the “Council of Ministers” approved 360 “TRNC” citizenship applications in five months.
In German think tank Friedrich Ebert Stiftung’s report gauging perceptions of corruption in the “TRNC,” 77 percent of respondents stated that vote buying and offering special favors in election periods is common.
Participation of Women and Members of Minority Groups: There is no “legal” limit on participation of women or members of minority groups in the political process, and they did participate. Women remained underrepresented in senior political positions. At year’s end, 11 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 “TRNC” 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 communities living in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities directly elected municipal officials, but Turkish Cypriot authorities did not recognize them officially. There was no minority representation in the 50-seat “parliament” or in the “cabinet.”
In December the “TRNC MFA” rejected Maronite resident Maria Skoullou’s application to stand for a Mukhtar (local village authority) position in the December 25 “TRNC Municipal” elections. The official “MFA” statement was general, saying they would not allow candidates who act against the sovereignty of the “TRNC state.” Press reports alleged the denial was linked to the employment of one of Skoullou’s family members by the Republic of Cyprus (ROC) military.
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.
The 2021 North Cyprus Corruption Perceptions Report noted worsening perceptions of corruption in the “TRNC.” According to the report, 78 percent of respondents indicated corruption is “very common” among politicians. A similar percentage of respondents believed “officials” involved in corruption are not prosecuted.
Corruption: In June Turkish Cypriot Electricity Utility General Manager Gurcan Erdogan was charged with exceeding his authority, issuing misleading statements, and making irregular payments and illegal transactions in a scheme involving unjustified overtime payments claimed by his driver. The two were convicted of fraud in August and sentenced to 18 months in prison.
In July Turkish Cypriot “police” arrested Australian citizen Mark Douglas Buddle, who was wanted by international organizations for his criminal connections. “Police” handed him over to authorities in Ankara. According to local press reports, the “Minister of Interior” granted Buddle a residence permit in August 2021 based on expectations he would bring high income into the “TRNC.” Speaking to Yeni Bakış newspaper, Buddle claimed that intermediaries came to him under the guise of intermediaries for the “prime minister” and “interior minister” and demanded brides to stay in the “TRNC.” Authorities reported there has been no investigation into these allegations.
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 local press reported that the pandemic and increasing poverty, exacerbated by the rapid devaluation of the Turkish lira led to more social problems and an increase in violence towards women. According to the report, there was no “state” mechanism or funding for women who face violence and are forced to leave their home despite calls for the “state” to provide them with low-cost housing and daycare. As a result, vulnerable women and their children are often obliged to return home to live with a violent partner.
Shelters operated by Nicosia Turkish Municipality provided temporary housing and support for victims of domestic violence and their children as well as victims of human trafficking. Approximately 250 women received support during the year, including counseling and advice. In November 2021, 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, a fine, or both. According to NGOs, sexual harassment went largely unreported. The NGO Voice of International Students in Cyprus reported widespread sexual harassment of women international students and noted that “police” routinely dismissed complaints about such harassment.
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 the area administered by Turkish Cypriots did not have free access to contraception and one out of every four women was under pressure from their spouse not to use contraception.
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, teachers who are women were reportedly instructed to schedule their pregnancies to deliver during summer break. Others working at private schools were dismissed from their duties for pregnancy during or at the beginning of the school year.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) women faced discrimination in education, housing, and employment.
Systemic Racial or Ethnic Violence and Discrimination
The “TRNC constitution” prohibits discrimination and states, “No privileges shall be granted to any individual, family, group, or class.”
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. One NGO reported that when members of minority communities did report discrimination or file complaints, “police” told them to return to their country of origin rather than opening 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 and international students faced discrimination and, at times, violence. In September, international student groups and NGOs stated that a foreign student was beaten by a group of attackers in the city center of Nicosia and hospitalized. The groups pointed to the attack as an indication of increased in racism and xenophobia in the “TRNC.”
Some of the approximately 15,000 African students with visas to study at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriot authorities reported racial discrimination in housing, employment, and interactions with authorities. More than 50,000 foreign students, excluding Turkish students, study at universities in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots.
In November, Yeniduzen reported that a Nigerian student was beaten and deported by authorities. In a statement to the press, International Nigerian Students Association, Voice of International Students In Cyprus (VOIS), Human Rights Platform, Refugee Rights Association, and Queer Cyprus Association said an international student named al-Yakub Sabo Abdullahi was deported by “TRNC” officials without reason and highlighted human rights violations during the deportation period. NGOs said Abdullahi was beaten many times by the Turkish Cypriot “police” and was not allowed to meet with his lawyer while in detention.
In December Nesil Bayraktar called out to Turkish Cypriot “officials” to end deportation of HIV-positive foreign nationals and end broader discrimination against African migrants. Bayraktar said while authorities have registered 116 HIV-positive “TRNC” citizens and foreigners, they summarily deported an additional 40 international students who tested positive during the year.
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, a fine, or both. A cybercrime “law” enacted in 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. Rabbi Chaim Hillel Azimov, who presides over the Jewish community in the “TRNC,” reported no significant instances of antisemitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report/.
During the year, “police” continued their investigation at two private hospitals after receiving information that a young woman had sold her ovaries in 2021. During the year, “police” arrested a total of eight persons, including doctors, donors, and a lab technician.
Acts of Violence, Criminalization, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity or Expression, or Sex Characteristics
Criminalization: No laws criminalize consensual same-sex conduct between adults or so-called cross-dressing, and there were no laws covering “debauchery” that constituted de facto discrimination.
Violence against LGBTQI+ Persons: A human rights NGO reported that online hate speech towards LGBTQI+ individuals was increasingly common, especially during pride parades, but “police” did not investigate. Despite filing hundreds of complaints to “police” for online statements by “officials,” “politicians,” and businessmen that constituted hate speech under the “law,” the NGO reported “police” declined to investigate based on “lack of expertise.”
An NGO reported their visit to the new “Central Prison” revealed that a transgender woman was kept in solitary confinement due to binary gender rules that do not recognize transgender identities and the limited infrastructure of both the old and new prisons. The NGO tried to work with lawmakers to improve the legal text on the structure of prison cells and address potential human rights violations due to gender identity but were told it was too late to make any changes to the “law.” The NGO reported that the prisons did not provide necessary health-care services such as hormone therapy or respect members of the transgender community’s right to privacy.
Discrimination: 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 to discriminate against any person based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Authorities did not effectively enforce the “law” during the year.
There were reports of official and societal discrimination against members of the LGBTQI+ community in employment, housing, and access to education or health care. Community members 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.
Registered partnership was not authorized for same-sex partners, leaving them without the rights and legal protections of heterosexual couples. NGOs reported that school curricula exclude any acknowledgement of LGBTQI+ identities.
Two Turkish Cypriot transgender women who applied for exemption from mandatory “TRNC” military service due to their gender identity had their exemptions denied and instead received a “suitable for military service” designation. As a result, both emigrated from the “TRNC.”
Availability of Legal Gender Recognition: According to NGOs, legal gender recognition is only available with surgery and sterilization. Gender-affirming health-care services were not accessible for LGBTQI+ individuals.
Involuntary or Coercive Medical or Psychological Practices Specifically Targeting LGBTQI+ Individuals: One NGO reported that intersex newborns undergo sex assignment surgeries due to societal expectations. There were no measures to prevent unnecessary medical interventions.
Restrictions of Freedom of Expression, Association, or Peaceful Assembly: There were no restrictions on those speaking out about LGBTQI+ matters.
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. Children with disabilities attended specific schools that were “state” funded.
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 the “law” that 4 percent of public-sector positions be filled by persons with disabilities. According to a May press statement of the chair of the Cyprus Turkish Federation of the Disabled, Dervis Yuceturk, 660 persons with disabilities in the “TRNC” were “waiting for employment and support.” Yuceturk stated 800 persons with disabilities had been employed under the 1993 Protection, Rehabilitation and Employment Law for the Disabled. Authorities reported that 5,306 persons with disabilities have received cash assistance.
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 nonmembership 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 workplaces 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.
The Turkish Cypriot Public Sector Workers Union (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 labor “laws.” Penalties were sometimes applied against violators. Penalties for employers convicted of violating labor “laws” 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.
Union members reported that at times “police” maintained a heavy presence and took measures at demonstration areas aimed at deterring union members from engaging in union activity and peaceful protests. Union members also reported that during peaceful demonstrations, “police” would arrest a few union members to intimidate other demonstrators. Some union members were charged with “preventing the “police” from doing their job” or “causing damage to public property” because of a confrontation with “police.”
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.
Authorities did not report 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 up to 12 hours a day 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 were victims of labor and human trafficking.
One union reported that 20 percent of the workforce in the “TRNC” was illegal or unregistered and added that such unregistered workers were abused and ended up working in multiple sectors.
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 did not report receiving complaints to the child labor hotline.
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. Penalties were sometimes applied against violators.
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.
d. Discrimination with Respect to Employment and Occupation
The “law” generally prohibits discrimination with respect to employment or occupation based on 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. Penalties were rarely applied against violators. Discrimination in employment and occupation occurred with respect to race, ethnicity, sex, disability, and gender.
Authorities reported there were 47,147 registered foreign workers, including 31,613 Turkish citizens and 15,534 individuals from other countries, in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots. The non-Turkish workers were mainly from Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Azerbaijan. Non-Turkish foreign migrant workers faced societal discrimination based on their ethnicity, race, and religious beliefs.
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.
KTAMS reported that many foreign workers receive salaries below the monthly minimum wage. Some foreign workers who work up to 12 to 15 hours per day are not paid their full daily allowances. One foreign worker reported that his daily salary was deducted on public holidays, but he was still forced to work.
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.
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.
As of September, the minimum monthly wage in the area administrated by Turkish Cypriots was 11,800 Turkish lira ($627). According to labor unions, this is below the poverty line. As of December, KTAMS reported the hunger threshold for a family of four was 11,622 Turkish Lira ($617) per month. 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 (OSH) standards and implementation of a 2008 “Occupational Work and Safety Law,” implementation was insufficient. Multinational companies, however, reportedly met OSH standards.
Workers could not remove themselves from situations that endangered health or safety without jeopardizing their employment. Accommodations for migrant workers, either as part of their compensation or for those made to pay, were substandard.
Authorities reported there were 103 major industrial accidents during the year that caused two deaths.
In June women employees of Kyrenia Municipality gathered in front of the Girne “Municipality” building to protest the death of a co-worker in a citrus processing factory. OSH specialist and trainer Sidika Geylan said the victim, a woman, age 69, died because authorities did not ensure compliance with OSH standards.
In August President of the Association of Occupational Health and Safety Experts (İSG-BİR) Guvenc Yuksel said employees and employers should take measures for their own OSH and personal safety without waiting for the “state” to act.
During the year, there were several instances of illness and injury that highlighted the particular vulnerability of foreign workers to OSH hazards.
Wage, Hour, and OSH Enforcement: The “Ministry of Labor and Social Security” is responsible for enforcing wage, hour, and OSH standards, but it did not effectively do so. Authorities could conduct unannounced inspections or initiate sanctions, but according to unions and associations, inspections were not adequately or routinely carried out.
The number of inspectors was not sufficient for enforcement. The penalties for noncompliance were not commensurate with those for other similar crimes. Penalties were sometimes applied against violators. Authorities commonly deported migrant workers who reported violations. Authorities did not penalize violators, and inspections were not adequate to protect worker rights.
The “Ministry of Labor” announced that in June, labor inspectors carried out inspections at 110 workplaces and determined that 178 out of 516 employees were not registered and not insured. Of the registered employees’ social insurance contributions, 98 were not fully paid or were smaller than they should have been based the employees’ income.
Informal Sector: While OSH standards applied to all working conditions, “TRNC” entities did not provide social protections for informal economy workers. In 2019, “Minister of Labor” Faiz Sucuoglu told “parliament” that the informal sector represented 20 percent of the economy.