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23 July, 2024
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Migrant camp near boiling point

Three arrested as Cypriot authorities deal with hunger strikes and demands for daytime camp passes


Police said three people were arrested at Pournara migrant centre during a protest on Wednesday, one day after a hunger strike, as camp residents demand better living conditions and the right to leave camp.

According to police, a demonstration took place on Tuesday at Pournara migrant centre in Kokkinotrimithia, rural Nicosia, where camp residents went on a hunger strike.

Reports said people refused to enter the cafeteria to have dinner, initially blocking food delivery while protesting over their living conditions and overcrowding at the camp.

A day later, on Wednesday morning, around 100 people took part in another protest, demanding to be allowed to exit the camp grounds for outings. According to lockdown measures, legitimate outings can be allowed with proper permission.

During the protest, three Georgian asylum seekers aged 27, 29, and 30 were arrested on assault charges while no injuries were reported.

There is no end in sight on the controversy over Pournara, as the government is facing scrambling to reconcile long delays in asylum applications with housing options for pending applicants

Reports later said the situation at Pournara calmed down following discussions between camp residents and officers.

Pournara currently hosts around 600 people under the orders of Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, who has raised the alarm over the island’s capacity to host large numbers of “economic migrants.”

Authorities have been criticized for carrying out policies under which asylum applicants are being picked up from other locations and transferred back into the migrant camp, which was originally designed to host asylum seekers for a maximum of 72 hours for initial checks and processing.

Nouris, who defended the government’s controversial decision to build a nearby detention facility for asylum applicants, said earlier this year that he had ordered expedited processing on asylum applications and any deportations but clarified the state would not send back those whose lives may be in danger.

Last month, Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides made an onsite visit to Pournara, noting that asylum seekers should not under any circumstances be barred from exiting the campground.

Stylianou-Lottides had said an April 8 decree for restrictions on movement amid the pandemic still provided for the right of individuals to request permission to go outside for humanitarian or medical reasons.

“Any measure that goes beyond the temporary scope and law of necessity, while being disproportionate in the effort to protect public health, is an arbitrary measure and it must be discontinued,” the ombudswoman said.

On May 4, lockdown measures in the Republic of Cyprus were eased, allowing citizens to request permission via text up to three times a day for legitimate movement outside their abode.

But there is no end in sight on the controversy over Pournara, an emergency camp for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, as the government is facing challenges in reconciling long delays in asylum applications with housing options for applicants with pending cases.

Cyprus  |  Nicosia  |  Kokkinotrimithia  |  Pournara  |  refugee  |  asylum  |  migration  |  Nouris  |  arrest  |  police  |  detention  |  pandemic  |  lockdown  |  Lottides

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