NICOSIA – With Greece the focus of a long-running refugee and migrant crisis, often overlooked Cyprus is having a hard time dealing with them as well and now faces criticism from aid groups who said the arrivals are living in substandard conditions and being pushed into poverty.
A report from the Cyprus Refugee Council detailed the lives of destitution they face in the country’s only detention center, called Kofinou. The UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency and other activist groups said it is overcrowded and deteriorating.
Following a recent policy change by the Asylum Service, Kofinou no longer accepts single male asylum seekers.
This means that, beyond 265 people hosted in Kofinou and 130 unaccompanied children residing in special shelters, the vast majority of applicants live outside of centers with more than 4,500 applying for international protection in 2017.
Shortages in accommodations and funds to help the refugees and migrants is making matters worse for them, with the UNCH and national civil society groups urged the government to increase aid to them.
The Cyprus Refugee Council, which joined in in the call, said, “We are deeply concerned with the decreasing ability of the reception system to accommodate the vital needs of asylum seekers in the country.”
It added: “The implementation of highly restrictive policies in regards to the level of social assistance and the access to the labor market, combined with the absence of an effective monitoring and support mechanism, has led to an increased homelessness problem among vulnerable asylum seekers.”