19 January 2015
SOME 200 Syrian refugees living in tents in the Kokkinotrimithia reception centre have been left to fend mostly for themselves after the state services stopped providing support on Saturday afternoon.
More than three months after their rescue in rough seas off the coast of Cyprus en route to Italy, the refugees were informed by the interior ministry earlier in the month that the camp was to close down. They were urged to take the necessary action to legalise their status on the island, either by applying for asylum or for a temporary residence permit.
Authorities moved to close down the camp after the temporary three-month residence permit all the refugees were given expired.
According to data released by the interior ministry last week, 36 refugees have so far asked for political asylum and another 144 have applied for temporary residence permits. This means they can work but have no access to state benefits. The remaining 20 or so have either been issued visas for other countries or have left Cyprus by other means.
Since Saturday, the refugees, who were reluctant from the beginning to apply for asylum, have been left without food, security and healthcare after the government services – civil defence, police, social welfare – were withdrawn.
They were also left without any transportation since the daily bus rides to Nicosia were discontinued, including the internet connection.
The government left running water and electricity at the camp until the end of January when all tents are to be packed up and the camp closed completely.
H, a woman in her twenties, who wished to remain anonymous, is staying in the camp with her husband and her two and a half year-old son. She said that she has not applied for asylum because she would not be granted refugee status but rather subsidiary protection. According to the law, this means she would not be able to bring other family members over from Syria. Other refugees said the same.