Health ministry officials say going in and out of the migrant facility in rural Nicosia is temporarily forbidden due to a scabies infestation, with the government defending migration policies amid criticism over living conditions and restriction of freedom of movement at the camp.
According to health ministry officials, entry and exit at the Pournara Temporary Accommodation Centre in Kokkinotrimithia, Nicosia district, is not allowed for two weeks, except for asylum seekers newly arriving at the facility.
An official statement from the health ministry said the protection of public health and a providing healthcare were the government’s responsibility, as well as restricting the spread of scabies which has infested a number of asylum seekers at the Pournara centre.
The prohibition came after the health ministry announced on Tuesday that 30 people were said to be taking prescribed medication to combat the infestation and have also been put in isolation, in order to stop the spread of the highly contagious skin condition.
Concerns over “concentration camp” policy
But the prohibition measures applied to non-infested individuals as well, with the Cyprus News Agency reporting that entry and exit at the camp was forbidden to all asylum seekers living in Pournara.
Critics recently questioned government policy by which asylum seekers were being removed from their residences and other locations and ended up being transferred to Pournara.
'If you don’t have asylum applicants confined somewhere, and if their applications get turned down, unfortunately you cannot locate them'
Interior Minister Nikos Nouris defended the policy earlier this year, speaking in favour of restricting asylum applicants who have pending applications with migration office.
But Nouris, who said Cyprus could cope only with fewer numbers of refugees, stopped short of saying asylum applicants would be detained, saying “until their cases are adjudicated, they shall remain at the specific location.”
“If you don’t have asylum applicants confined somewhere, and if their applications are turned down, unfortunately you cannot locate them,” Nouris said in early March.
Asylum seekers at Pournara recently protested against poor living conditions while also arguing they were being wrongly deprived of their freedom of movement during the pandemic movement restrictions.
Last month Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides warned the government that asylum seekers should not under any circumstances be barred from exiting the campground, arguing that an April 8 decree for restrictions on movement amid the pandemic was still protecting the rights of individuals to request permission to go outside for humanitarian or medical reasons.
The movement restrictions were finally lifted on Thursday morning at 6am but an executive order declaring Pournara a “local infected area” meant all asylum seekers could still not exit the camp freely.