Cyprus Mail

‘You are wiser than politicians’, president tells children

This is what children's dreams are made of: President Anastasiades and Commissioner Koursoumba looking at the poster school children made

By Peter Stevenson

PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades welcomed 150 children of all ages at the Presidential Palace yesterday to mark the United Nations universal children’s day, telling them their rights are protected by the state and praised them for submitting a brief and concise letter outlining the problems children face today.

Anastasiades said that the most important issues affecting children due to the current economic crisis will be considered very seriously by the politicians of the land, while their right to welfare and education is of utmost importance.

Yesterday was the 24th anniversary of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) which says that states should protect children’s rights to life, education, expression, as well as the right to be raised by and have a relationship with their parents.

“It gives me joy to welcome children the same age and slightly older than my grand children,” said Anastasiades, who was accompanied by Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos and the Commissioner for Children’s Rights, Leda Koursoumba.

He explained to the children that the Presidential Palace has a rich history from when it was under British colonial rule to when it became a symbol for the Republic.

“You should know that you have rights and that they are protected by the state and the commissioner’s responsibility is to monitor state services, including teachers, to ensure they are doing a good job and that they love you,” he said.

The president added that politicians should also be monitored to make sure the laws which are being implemented respond to the children’s needs and to make sure that needy children receive state aid.

“Whatever is included within a child’s right are mapped out and adopted completely. They are universally accepted so children have a clean environment, a roof over their heads, good education and happiness,” he said.

The chairman of the children’s parliament handed a letter to the president listing all the problems children faced during the economic crisis.

Anastasiades congratulated the members of the children’s parliament for their letter and express his “admiration and pride that we have children with such an unprecedented maturity that within a page and a half have put down all of the messages we politicians need to seriously consider,” he said.

He assured the children that he is doing whatever is possible to respond to the obligations he has towards them as they are not only the present but the future of Cyprus.

“What the state is obliged to do, amongst other things, is to ensure children’s right to education and to live in a world which respects these rights,” he added.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Koursoumba said that “it is a very symbolic (day) as the President has seen children of all ages and representatives from the children’s parliament.”

The event was very positive, she added, as Anastasiades told the children he would take their demands on board.

Kenevezos, in an earlier statement, said “securing basic rights for Cyprus’ children, without any discrimination and with special respect to diversity, constitutes a highest priority and the aim of all of our actions”.

But migrant support group KISA said in a news statement earlier this week that the migration department had taken away a breastfeeding mother of three from the Kofinou holding centre for asylum seekers just this Monday.

KISA said the mother was still breastfeeding her youngest child, aged one, and together with her other two children aged six and eight – have been in Kofinou since December last year, while the father is held in Menoyia detention centre for immigrants awaiting deportation. According to KISA, the mother was arrested and taken to Aradippou police station in Larnaca while the two oldest children are now in a home for children in Larnaca, and the baby is under the care of a foster family.

“The family hail from Afghanistan and are part of the persecuted religious Sikh minority,” KISA said. They were arrested a year ago with fake passports while trying to get to the UK to seek asylum where one of the parents has family.

Ten days ago, the Cyprus Mail wrote about a number of cases in which children were deprived of at least one parent – sometimes both – on charges of marriage of convenience, often based on flimsy evidence. A three-year-old girl has been deprived of her Bulgarian mother and Pakistani father because the migration department claimed the couple’s marriage was one of convenience. The department claimed the woman was pregnant when they got married, even though her daughter was born eleven months after the marriage.

Another case involved a 15-year-old living alone because her Chinese parents were being held in Menoyia.

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