Europe rights body blasts Cyprus jail overcrowding

Europe’s leading human rights body said Tuesday that Cyprus needs to take action aimed at alleviating overcrowding at the country’s sole prisons complex.

The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture said in a report that despite efforts to increase capacity at Nicosia’s Central Prisons facility, overcrowding remains a problem that strains relations between inmates and staff.

The report said Cypriot authorities should consider alternatives to prison time for those handed short sentences. It also calls on authorities to ensure migrants are held in appropriate detention centers instead of police stations that are unsuitable for the purpose.

It also urged a reduction in the amount of time individuals are kept in detention at police stations.

Answering the report, the Cypriot Justice Ministry said Tuesday that authorities have effectively dealt with overcrowding problem since committee members’ visit last year, managing to «significantly reduce» prison populations.

The ministry also said that plans are being drawn up for construction of a new prisons complex.

It added that steps have been taken to ensure migrants are housed at a purpose-built facility and not at police stations.