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12° Nicosia,
18 July, 2024
 
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UNHCR concerns over asylum-seekers trapped in buffer zone

UN refugee agency urges urgent action for 31 asylum-seekers amidst growing concerns over their safety and well-being

Newsroom / CNA

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has raised alarms over the safety and well-being of 31 asylum-seekers, including seven children, who are reportedly stranded in the UN Buffer Zone in Cyprus. According to UNHCR, five individuals attempted to seek asylum at the Pournara reception center after crossing the Buffer Zone but were subsequently removed by police and forcibly returned.

The agency reports that two of these individuals, including an unaccompanied child from Syria, are now missing, while others require urgent medical and psychological care. Despite receiving basic provisions such as food, water, and shelter from the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) with UNHCR support, those in the buffer zone are enduring precarious conditions in tents exposed to extreme temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius in recent days. Additionally, despite receiving emergency medical treatment at state hospitals, individuals have been returned to the Buffer Zone following discharge, as stated by UNHCR.

"This situation demands immediate action. Effective access to asylum procedures and adequate reception conditions are obligations under international refugee law, as we have emphasized in our communications with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus," said Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Regional Director for Europe. Leclerc underscored the need for Cyprus to adhere to these obligations across all its territories, including the buffer zone.

The incident occurs against a backdrop of shrinking protection space in Cyprus, including governmental measures affecting Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers, such as the suspension of asylum application processing since mid-April, impacting over 14,000 Syrian asylum seekers, according to UNHCR.

UNHCR further notes an uptick in arrests and forceful measures against asylum-seekers attempting to submit subsequent applications, as well as reports of interceptions and pushbacks of boats carrying asylum-seekers aiming to reach Cypriot shores in recent months.

"We acknowledge Cyprus' challenges with new arrivals and are prepared to offer additional support to ensure the fundamental human rights of asylum seekers and refugees are upheld," Leclerc affirmed. "Collaboration with the government and stakeholders is crucial to finding sustainable solutions and ensuring collective responsibility to protect those fleeing conflict and persecution."

UNHCR reiterated the need for continued EU resources, solidarity, and responsibility-sharing to enhance Cyprus' capacity to respond effectively.

The Government of the Republic of Cyprus did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the matter.

 

 

 

 

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Cyprus  |  Turkey

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