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15 April 2020 – Cyprus

Video still from Pounara Camp, Cyprus (Courtesy KISA, 11 April 2020)
Video still from Pounara Camp, Cyprus (Courtesy KISA, 11 April 2020)

The Ministry of the Interior issued a statement in early April responding to NGO criticism of the living conditions in two reception centres where asylum seekers and refugees were moved to: Pournara and Kofinou. The statement by the Ministry mentions that they are “doing everything humanly possible to provide housing, food and medical care to all these people”, even for “illegal refugees”.

KISA, Movement for Equality, Support, Anti-Racism issued a response to the Ministry’s statement arguing that the Ministry of the Interior has failed to respond to the accusations of violations of Refugee law and European legislation and has also ignored calls from the Council of Europe to release migrants and asylum seekers in detention centres to the “maximum extent possible”. KISA also mentioned that asylum seekers are detained in a tent or similar rough structures and that as regards healthcare, they are limited to general hospitals in the area as they are unable to register with a personal doctor.

KISA also reiterated their position that the policies and actions of the Minister of the Interior and the government, “both in terms of mass detention and arbitrary suspension of the asylum procedures during the pandemic as well as in relation to the unequal access to the right to healthcare, constitute blatant violations of the Refugee law, European legislation and international human rights law but they are also extremely dangerous for the health of asylum seekers and public health in general”. The organisation stated that it has brought legal proceedings before the ECtHR as well as a report against the Ministry’s measures and calls on other civil society organisations and other relevant authorities to intervene to ensure the government’s compliance with legality and the rule of law.

A video reportedly filmed by an asylum seeker in the Pournara camp and published on 11 April by KISA appears to show the squalid living conditions in the camp. According to the video, 27 asylum seekers were brought to the camp and as of 11 April 2020, there were 23 remaining. Only one sink in the bathroom has running water, the showers do not work and residents have therefore been unable to shower since their arrival at the camp 10 days earlier. Many tents have been flooded and floors are muddy. As a consequence, people in the camp are sharing tents with beds very close together. The camp is surrounded with fencing and barbed wire has been placed behind the fence to prevent anyone from leaving. The video does not appear to show any specific measures that may have been taken to alleviate the risk of contagion of Covid-19.