By Evie Andreou
The Cyprus Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday urged Syrian and Palestinian refugees to apply for asylum as a best guarantee to ensure their international protection needs, as the last of their number left the temporary camp in Kokkinotrimithia.
The remaining 85 left the site as the tents were packed and the camp dismantled for good on Tuesday.
According to Emilia Strovolidou, public information officer at the UNHCR, the refugees were each given an allowance to last them for the week, including enough for fees to apply for humanitarian temporary residence permit with access to the job market, or for a tourist visa.
The refugees were then transferred by buses, to Nicosia, Limassol or Larnaca, according to where they wished to go.
The refugees, 337 in total, were rescued off the coast of Cyprus in September. The majority had expressed the wish to travel to other European countries and refused to apply for asylum since they feared they would not be granted the refugee status but a subsidiary protection, which means they could not bring family members over from Syria.
“To date, 71 Syrians and Palestinians have submitted their asylum applications to the Cypriot authorities and were relocated to the Kofinou reception centre for asylum-seekers. Another 165 have applied for, and obtained, renewable six-month humanitarian residence permits that would allow them to legally work in Cyprus,” the UNHCR said in an announcement. Others managed to leave the island and some became stuck in the north after being unable to pay people smugglers to take them to Turkey.
The government closed down the camp after the three-month temporary residence permit given to the refugees expired. Government officials have been trying until the eleventh hour to convince the refugees to apply for asylum so that they could be transferred to Kofinou.
The UNHCR reiterated their position that people fleeing from war-torn Syria, should be recognised as refugees.
“The UNHCR continues to underscore the refugee character of Syrians and Palestinians fleeing the conflict and persecution in Syria and to advocate for and promote their rights and humane treatment in accordance with the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, as well as the relevant European Union directives” the announcement said.
Immigrant support group KISA, meanwhile called on people to offer shelter to the 85 refugees who left the camp yesterday for the last time. The organisation said the refugees had been taken to Nicosia by bus and left at Eleftheria Square with nothing but the €500 each had been given by the authorities.
“The refugees, including a lot of children, have been left alone in the middle of the streets with just a trash-bag containing their belongings,” KISA said in an announcement said. The Cyprus Mail visited the square shortly after the KISA announcement was received but found none of the refugees there.
For more information: KISA Tel: 22 878181