Cyprus has experienced increasing tumult in its reception system even as the country has continued to deport people during the pandemic. Approximately 200 Georgian citizens were deported from Cyprus during the month of May after their asylum applications were rejected. The Interior Minister also announced the “voluntary return” of 150 Cameroonians.
On 6 May, following a hunger strike, a protest took place at the Pournara emergency reception camp. Three people were arrested as they were protesting over the overcrowding at the camp, and overall living conditions. The three men were arrested on assault charges, and it is unclear where they were taken and if they were deported. The Interior Ministry later accused the protester of being “anarchists, trying to steer off course the government’s response to a migration crisis.”
At that time, around 600 people were living in the camp. Migrants also demanded to be allowed to exit the camp, which has been prohibited since the COVID-19 outbreak. The Cyprus Ombudswoman, who visited the camp in April, stated that “asylum seekers should not under any circumstances be barred from exiting the campground.”
On 19 May, the Health Ministry declared the camp as a “local infected area under public health laws” due to 30 confirmed cases of scabies infection. Despite the ease of the country’s restrictions, since 4 May, the lockdown continues at Pournara. The camp was originally designed to host asylum seekers for a maximum of 72 hours. Although the movement restrictions were lifted on 21 May, asylum seekers still cannot exit the camp freely due to the scabies infection.
On 27 May, there were around 700 people at Pournara. A protest was organized that day, and took the form of a sit-in. Although police were present, they reportedly did not intervene.
- Knews, “Migrant Camp Near Boiling Point,” 7 May 2020, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/asylum-seekers-continue-to-protest-confinement-at-pournara-camp
- Knews, “Mass Deportations Underway In Cyprus,” 27 May 2020, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/mass-deportations-underway-in-cyprus
- Knews, “All Asylum Seekers At Pournara Locked In,” 21 May 2020, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/all-asylum-seekers-locked-in-at-pournara
- Knews, “Migrant Camp Declared ‘Local Infected Area’,” 20 May 2020, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/migrant-camp-declared-%E2%80%98local-infected-area
- Knews, “Migrant Camp Near Boiling Point,” 7 May 2020, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/migrant-camp-near-boiling-point
- Migrants and Asylum Seekers Protesting at a Fence in the Pournara Refugee Camp in Kokkinotrimithia, (Knews, “Asylum seekers continue to protest confinement at Pournara camp,” 27 May 2020, https://knews.kathimerini.com.cy/en/news/asylum-seekers-continue-to-protest-confinement-at-pournara-camp)