A police officer stands guard as migrants stand inside a refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia outside of Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
NICOSIA — Cyprus' interior minister said Tuesday that he asked police to launch a criminal investigation into allegations that girls staying at a migrants' reception center were sexually harassed by other residents.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris told state broadcaster CyBC that he takes "very seriously" the allegations made by an official from the Cyprus office of the U.N.'s High Commission for Refugees at a parliamentary committee meeting on Monday.
But Nouris criticized the official for not immediately disclosing the allegations to Cypriot authorities and instead waiting four days to report them in parliament.
The children's rights commissioner of Cyprus, Despo Michaelidou-Livaniou, told The Associated Press that a number of girls were allegedly groped as they waited in line for a meal at the Pournara migrant reception center.
The commissioner criticized the Interior Ministry for not housing the minors elsewhere while authorities worked to confirm the girls' ages, a process she said takes too long.
The UNHCR said in a statement that the ministry didn't follow through with a plan to create a "safe zone" for children during work to expand and upgrade the center. Boys and girls shared facilities like showers with adults while separated only by curtain.
Migrants wait for food inside a refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia outside of Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
"UNHCR has communicated the heightened protection risk this causes to the children in writing to the Ministries of Interior and Social Insurance, calling for adequate segregation of the unaccompanied minors,"the agency said.
Nouris defended his ministry's actions, saying Cyprus is struggling with an influx of asylum-seekers. No sexual harassment allegations have surfaced at the center in the past, and minors staying there don't line up with adults at mealtime, he said.
The center now hosts 16 females and 24 males who identified themselves as under 18-years-old, Nouris said. The females live in a separate room that's equipped with a lock, and the males also live apart from adults.
A migrant stands behind a fence inside a refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia outside of capital Nicosia, Cyprus, on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Philippos Christou)
Nouris said the age verification process needs to be thorough because nearly half of 206 migrants who last year claimed to be minors were shown to be adults.
A hasty decision to transfer these people to a dedicated facility for underage migrants would be "just shifting the problem somewhere else," he said.
ΝΙCOSIA - An investigation into conditions on an intercity bus on Cyprus that passengers said was so dirty they couldn't see out the windows was ordered after it broke down on a highway and caught fire.
PHILADELPHIA – The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia and Greater Delaware Valley announced that the Evzones, the Presidential Guard of Greece will be participating in the Philadelphia Greek Independence Day Parade on March 20.
O oceanic you sing and sail
White on your body and yellow on your chimeneas
For you're tired of the filthy waters of the harbors
You who loved the distant Sporades
You who lifted the tallest flags
You who sail clear through the most dangerous caves
Hail to you who let yourself be charmed by the sirens
Hail to you for never having been afraid of the Symplegades
What traveler has not been fascinated by the Greek islands, drawn by the Sirens’ song of a traveler’s dreams?
TNH and our video show ‘Mission’ marked the change of the season by transporting viewers into the heart of summer.
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