Nine Activist Groups Blast Cyprus Over Migrant Camp Conditions

FILE -A Syria man, right, who lives in Cyprus, meets with his relatives after they arrived at a refugees camp at Kokkinotrimithia outside of the capital Nicosia, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)

NICOSIA – After fending off criticism that migrants were being pushed into poverty, Cyprus’ government has been assailed anew that they risk becoming homeless because of an inadequate reception center on the island.

That assessment came from nine humanitarian organizations who signed a joint statement, the Italian wire service Agenzia Nazionale Stampa Associata (ANSA)reported.

The organizations – Agapi, Caritas, Cyprus Red Cross Society, Cyprus Refugee Council, Hope for Children, KISA, MiHub, Municipality of Nicosia, and the UNHCR – said migrants on Cyprus face an increased risk of homelessness.

“The number of people seeking asylum in Cyprus has continued to show marked increases over the years, mostly due to the ongoing conflict in Syria: 1,887 in 2014; 2,108 in 2015; 2,871 in 2016 and 4,499 in 2017,” the statement said. “We believe, however, that the national reception system has proven to be inadequate to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of asylum-seekers and is in urgent need of a comprehensive reform,” it said.

Following a recent policy change by the Cypriot Asylum Service, the Kofinou Reception Centre is no longer accepting single male asylum-seekers, it said.

“With the Kofinou Center presently hosting only 265 persons and another 130 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children housed in special shelters, the vast majority of asylum-seekers therefore live outside collective centers,” it said.

The statement further said that the lack of housing and financial assistance “leaves beneficiaries below the poverty line”, which “exacerbates the risk of destitution for asylum seekers”.

The groups said the government, which has essentially ignored complaints, should “take immediate  action to remedy the situation,” including to provide emergency accommodations to all asylum seekers, increasing their benefits and provide measures to aid unaccompanied children.

Earlier, after criticism from activists who said refugees on Cyprus are living in substandard conditions and being pushed into poverty, Defense Minister Savvas Angelides said those who come will find a safe haven and be helped.