Several incidents of government and societal discrimination against members of minority national and ethnic groups occurred during the year.
On February 16, approximately150 Greek Cypriot and 25 Palestinian students clashed at a high school in Larnaca. Three students, a Greek Cypriot and two Palestinians, suffered light injuries and received first aid. The incident was attributed to increased tensions between Greek Cypriot residents of Larnaca and Palestinian refugees who had settled in the city. The government, the school parents association, and the student council condemned the incident.
On March 23, police charged 14 persons for rioting and, in some cases, causing bodily harm in connection with the November 2010 clashes in Larnaca between participants in an antiracism NGO event, the Rainbow Festival, and demonstrators marching against the presence of undocumented migrants. One Turkish Cypriot, a member of a music group participating in the NGO event, was stabbed and several police officers and demonstrators injured. The mosque in Larnaca was vandalized following the riot. Nine of the persons charged participated in the Rainbow Festival, and the other five participated in a demonstration against undocumented migrants. Doros Polycarpou, the executive director of KISA, one of the organizers of the antiracism event, was
among those charged with rioting. The hearing of Polycarpou's case was scheduled for February 2012 after two postponements in July and December. International human rights groups following the case protested the delays in the hearing. In a joint statement on December 13, a delegation of eight international organizations protested the cancellation of its meetings with government officials to discuss the case. Two of the other persons charged were accused of publicly insulting Doros Polycarpou.
In March the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) issued a report assessing the situation in Cyprus. Among several areas that needed improvement, the report noted that legislation against racism was rarely implemented and no records were kept on discrimination cases that reached the courts. It noted a disproportionately high concentration of Turkish Cypriot and Romani children in certain schools and a lack of educational access for the Romani children living in the Polemidia area outside of Limassol, a situation described as de facto segregation from the general population. The report also noted a marked increase in racism in schools and a rise in prominence of extremist and anti-immigration groups.
In November the ombudsman issued a report expressing serious concern over the increase of racist attacks in Cyprus and calling on the authorities to take immediate measures to locate and punish the perpetrators of such incidents. After examining a series of attacks against foreigners in Nicosia in August for which no suspects had been arrested and convicted, the ombudsman made a series of recommendations to improve the situation.
During the year there was one report of violence against a Turkish Cypriot in the government-controlled area. In January a Turkish Cypriot man was reportedly attacked after an Apoel-Omonia soccer game, in the presence of his wife and child. The victim stated he did not file a complaint with the Greek Cypriot police because of a lack of action in other similar cases.
Some Turkish Cypriots living in the government-controlled area reportedly faced difficulties obtaining identification cards and other government documents, particularly if they were born after 1974. Turkish Cypriots made few formal complaints to the UNFICYP about their living conditions in the south.
The ombudsman received complaints that the government denied automatic citizenship to children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens who resided in the area administered by Turkish Cypriots. Instead of granting citizenship automatically to such children, the Ministry of Interior routinely sought
approval from the Council of Ministers before confirming their citizenship. In 2011 the Council of Ministers approved 119 cases. The ombudsman's office had no authority to examine the complaints because the Council of Ministers decision to apply different criteria for granting citizenship to children born to one Turkish parent was a political one. Children of Turkish Cypriots married to Turkish citizens and living outside of Cyprus were automatically granted citizenship. However, the ombudsman's office issued a report in August following the receipt of a large number of complaints from children of Turkish
Cypriots married to non-Cypriots for long delays in receiving a response to their applications for citizenship. The majority of the cases were pending for three years and in some cases for four to five years. The ombudsman recommended that the Ministry of Interior expedite the examination of the applications, inform the applicants before the end of the year, and inform those deemed ineligible in writing about the reasons for rejection. The ombudsman also urged the ministry to examine such applications in the future within a reasonable period of time.