Cyprus Mail

Protection plea for underage migrant children

By a Staff Reporter

THERE ARE round 50 unaccompanied minor migrant children, most from Africa, currently in Cyprus, the House human rights committee heard on Monday.

Committee chairman Sophocles Fyttis said there were 21 girls and 28 boys being housed at two government facilities while authorities attempted to identify them and verify their ages.

At least two were the victims of child trafficking, he said.

Most of the children, from Somalia, Cameroon, Syria, Ivory Coast, Congo, Mali, and Ghana, had come through the north, he said, and many were undocumented.

Commissioner for Children’s Rights Leda Koursoumbas said in such situations it was important for Cyprus to tread carefully and not violate any of the children’s rights.

The European Refugee Fund covers €197,000 of the costs involved in caring for the children, and the Cyprus government €40,000, all of which is funneled through the welfare department.

The House committee plans to visit the two facilities next month and hold meetings with the Ombudswoman and the interior ministry to discuss any problems relating to the hosting of the minors.

One issue of concern was that immigration, once the children turned 18, would class them as illegal and deport them because once classed as an adult, they would no longer be afforded protection as unaccompanied minors.

In fact, AKEL MP Skevi Koukouma said two children had been deported this way in 2014 before it was determined whether they were still minors or not.

Koursoumba said she also planned to issue a report from her office about the care of the children and their emotional and mental well-being, living as they were without parents in a strange country.

“These children have no legal representation to know their rights or how to apply for political asylum,” she said.

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