In an attempt to help the increasing number of immigrants on the island, UNHCR Cyprus on Thursday launched a new online information platform for refugees and asylum-seekers living on the island.
“A mobile-friendly website that is accessible at http://help.unhcr.org/, the “HELP” platform seeks to offer comprehensive, accurate, objective and up-to- date information that is essential for refugees and asylum-seekers in Cyprus,” UNHCR announced.
Topics covered include the national asylum system, the rights and duties of asylum-seekers and refugees, and information about government programmes and non-governmental organisations that offer various types of assistance and integration support. The information is currently available in English, but there are plans to also include other languages in the near future.
The aim is to help refugees and asylum seekers make decisions on such issues as applying for asylum, learning the local language, looking for a job or bringing the family members they have left behind. It also tries to provide access to reliable, timely information from authoritative sources that is central to their ability to make good, informed decisions.
“We recognise, however, that the realities of urban refugee situations where people are widely dispersed throughout the country necessarily require extensive use of modern communication technology that ensures a greater and quicker flow of essential information,” Damtew Dessalegne, the UNHCR representative in Cyprus, said.
According to the refugee agency, the use of online information is not a substitute but a supplement to UNHCR’s regular contacts with refugees and asylum-seekers through outreach activities, one-on- one counselling, monitoring visits and group information sessions.
Those who would like to make suggestions and feedback to improve the new platform are asked to contact UNHCR at [email protected]
There has been a 137 per cent increase in the number of illegal immigrants and refugees arriving in Cyprus in the first nine months of the year compared with the same period last year.
From the beginning of 2017 to October 8, 818 people reached Cyprus, up from 345 last year, according to data published by the International Organisation for Migration on Thursday.
The organisation said the number of illegal immigrants and refugees arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain exceeded 140,000 during the first nine months of this year.
While more people arrived in Cyprus, fewer arrived in other countries. By October 8 2017, some 140,538 migrants and refugees had entered Europe by sea, more than 75 per cent of whom arrived in Italy. Last year’s figure was 318,207.
In Italy, the amount of arrivals dropped from 144,445 last year to 107,028 and in Greece from 167,972 to 20,364. More immigrants reached Spain this year. Last year there were 5,445 arrivals compared with 12,328 in the same time span in 2016.
Many did not reach the countries they wanted to land in. It is estimated that 2,754 people have died at sea so far in 2017, while last year’s number was 3,686. Most deaths occur in the sea between Libya and Italy.
According to figures from Italian authorities, more and more Tunisians are arriving illegally.
“This is a new trend, but it is not linked to the ‘closure’ of the route from Libya because the nationalities are different,” Flavio Di Giacomo, head of the organisation in Italy said.
He added that apart from the 1,400 Tunisians recorded in September, there are many cases where people who arrive cover their tracks. “So, their number is higher, but we cannot say for sure.”