Shemaine Bushnell Kyriakides
President Nicos Anastasiades visited Pournara at 9 am this morning after reports surfaced on the unsuitable living conditions of minors being housed at the center. Last week, the Commissioner for the Protection of Children's Rights Mrs. Despo Michaelidou Livaniou stated that minors slept in overcrowded rooms sometimes on floors, with no heating, and were only given a piece of bread for breakfast and one bottle of water throughout the day.
According to presidential spokesperson Marios Pelekanos, the President’s visit was to see first-hand the living conditions of the immigrants at the center, more specifically the situation of 356 minors at the camp, who, according to reports, are being deprived of safe and sanitary living conditions in an already overcrowded immigrant facility.
“I feel that at this critical moment we need to focus on how to fix the issues rather than throwing blame." -Anastasiades
The President was accompanied by Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, Social Welfare Deputy Minister Anastasia Anthousi, Deputy Minister to the President Mr. Kyriakos Kousios, the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights Mrs. Maria Stylianou Lottidis and the Commissioner for the Protection of Children's Rights Mrs. Despo Michaelidou Livaniou.
In his statements to journalists at the end of the visit, President Anastasiades said, “it is a tragedy that these people, who are looking for a better life away from their homeland, are exploited by traffickers making false promises, on the other hand, it is also unfortunate that Cyprus has the highest percentage of asylum seekers, compared to other EU countries, in relation to its population, which now stands at 5%.”
The living conditions of minors at the center have been recently criticized by the Commissioner for the Protection of Children's Rights Mrs. Despo Michaelidou Livaniou.
Interior Minister Nouris stated earlier that despite the center exceeding its capacity, the 356 minors have not been denied accommodation and heating. He also said that 90 minors were moved to a hotel in Larnaca, specifically rented by the Ministry for this purpose.
When asked, during the press conference, if there was any truth to reports that the living conditions of migrants were deliberately being made difficult by the government so as to discourage an influx of migrants into Cyprus, Anastasiades responded, “I refuse to comment on such reports.”
“I feel that at this critical moment we need to focus on how to fix the issues rather than throwing blame. What is needed is to improve our policies, to improve our infrastructure, so that we are even more humane."
President Anastasiades concluded his statements by praising the Interior Minister and Deputy Welfare Minister, saying that they were doing an “excellent job” and that shortages at the center would be dealt with immediately.
A meeting between the President and government officials will be held later in the day to find solutions to the issues at Pournara.
[With information from CNA]