Newly-arrived presumptive refugees were on standby this week, after reports said they were taken to a police station in Famagusta district due to overcrowding conditions at a migrant reception centre in rural Nicosia.
According to local media, eight Syrian refugees aged between 17 and 32 are believed to have arrived in the Republic of Cyprus on Monday, where they were spotted in Avgorou, Famagusta district.
Local media said there was speculation that the undocumented migrants arrived through the buffer zone early in the morning, around 6am, with immigration officers picking them up and taking them to the local police station in Ksylofagou.
Additional reports said the refugees, who all tested negative for the coronavirus, were sleeping outdoors on a concrete slab or inside totaled vehicles
Police sources said there was some discussion over the issue as late as Thursday while Knews on Friday morning could not ascertain whether the refugees were moved to another location. Philenews online reported later that the eight refugees were taken to Pournara.
Additional reports said the refugees, who all tested negative for the coronavirus, were sleeping outdoors on a concrete slab or inside totaled vehicles. Local residents reportedly have been providing food and other essentials, while the refugees were said to be without access to a toilet or shower.
Local media citing sources from the Cyprus News Agency reported that the Pournara migrant camp in rural Nicosia remained full this week.
Earlier this month, dozens of asylum seekers were roughing it out in Engomi, a western borough of Nicosia, outside a migration office, with reports saying some 60 refugees were not allowed to file for asylum at the Migration office and had nowhere to go.
An ombudswoman report this month called for some 200 individuals in Pournara, who were eligible to exit the camp, be given permits immediately to leave the facility.
In her report, Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Maria Stylianou-Lottides wrote that camp officials argued nobody could leave the camp because a decree banning exits and allowing only entries superseded other factors.
The ombudswoman said she understood that conditions due to the pandemic called for additional measures such as quarantine, but she also found that in many cases there were refugees in isolation areas way past the 14-day period.
Authorities were also criticized earlier this year for carrying out policies under which both processed and unprocessed asylum applicants were being picked up from their places of residence and transferred into the migrant camp.
Pournara was originally designed to host up to 350 newly-arrived refugees and asylum seekers for a maximum of 72 hours after initial administrative processing. Additional work around the camp, including pre-fab housing and more tents, has taken place but was not yet complete.
According to the ombudswoman’s report, there were 968 persons at Pournara camp during her visit on December 4.
Recent weather conditions pounded rural areas west on Nicosia, causing property damages and flooding but no injuries were reported.
Maria Stylianou-Lottides said there were some improvements in the camp since her second to last report, but she added health and hygiene issues including lack of hot water were still pending.
She also pointed out a number of concerns regarding camp capacity as well as the right of eligible camp residents to come and go freely.