Cyprus Mail

Welfare under fire over dead mother

Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou

By Stefanos Evripidou

THE WELFARE Services came under fire yesterday from the Ombudswoman over their handling of the death of a 40-year-old Romanian last month and the search for the father of her five-year-old son.

Ildiko Gergely Tunde, 40, was found dead in squalid conditions in her apartment on January 23 after her young son had been seen calling for help in the building’s hallway.

State pathologists confirmed the cause of death to be an infection of the gastrointestinal tract caused by duodenal perforation for which the woman had refused treatment at Larnaca General Hospital.

Her son is currently under the supervision of welfare services, who are handling the issue of the child’s biological father.

News reports suggested the father of the five-year-old is a married 65-year-old businessman from Larnaca who allegedly told police that Tunde had worked for him and had been intimate with him but that she had also been intimate with other men.

A 22-year-old Romanian man currently serving time at the central prisons for burglary, believed to be the son of the 40-year-old from a previous marriage in Romania reportedly told police that she’d had a baby boy following a relationship with a local businessman who had denied being the father of the child.

So far, the welfare services have failed to establish whether the Larnaca man is the father of the child or not.

Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou released a statement yesterday saying the circumstances of the woman’s death and the subsequent actions of the authorities in relation to the paternity of the child “undoubtedly cause serious concern”.

The right of children to know their parents is enshrined in international conventions, which Cyprus has signed and is called to implement, she said.

The authorities who are entrusted with the custody and care of the child should have as their only concern the best interests of the child, said the ombudswoman, adding that delay in establishing the child’s father raises doubts as to whether the child’s best interests are being safeguarded.

“Undoubtedly, the interest of this specific child is served primarily through identification of the father, following the tragic death of his mother, who had sole responsibility for his care.”

Savvidou said she was aware that identifying paternity through genetic material requires careful and sensitive handling. But in this specific case, the circumstances justify taking the initiative to exhaust all means to safeguard the interests of the child, provided the necessary measures are taken to guarantee respect to the privacy and dignity of those involved.

The ombudswoman expressed the belief that the conditions of the mother’s life and death, and the handling of the paternity of the child are not at all unrelated to the broader context of social conditions and gender inequalities and particularly the position of the migrant woman in Cypriot society.

These conditions unfortunately produce such incidents of social marginalisation and ultimately, victimisation of minors, she said.

Meanwhile, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou yesterday confirmed that cabinet on Thursday appointed an investigating officer from the Legal Service in consultation with the attorney-general to examine all aspects of the case.

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