By Evie Andreou
The next steps in the handling of the 114 refugees who arrived Wednesday morning on board two boats at Lady’s Mile beach, will be decided based on their requests, the spokesperson of the Civil Defence Olivia Michaelidou said on Thursday.
Michaelidou said government officials were at the Akrotiri base to record and process the requests of the 114 refugees.
The refugees, 28 children, 19 women and 67 men, were spotted by fishermen in the early morning hours of Wednesday The two boats were later located by the coastguard and they anchored at Lady’s Mile, at Cape Gata, which is located within the British Sovereign Base Areas (SBA). They spent the night at the Akrotiri base, where they were given food, clothing, and medical care.
The status of the migrant arrivals on the British bases was not immediately clear, and there is still no word from the bases or the Cyprus government as to who will assume responsibility for the refugees.
Following the arrival of the refugees at Akrotiri, state authorities began consultations with the British High Commission on how to handle the case. According to a 2003 agreement, between Cyprus and Britain, the former has to assume responsibility in cases when refugees enter the island through the SBA.
However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in an announcement that the 2003 UK-Cyprus memorandum made it clear that “asylum seekers arriving directly on to the SBA are the responsibility of the UK but they would be granted access to services in the Republic at cost to the SBA.”
It also said that it has contacted both the SBA and the Republic “to offer support”, but that it had not been able to visit the refugees because they were on a military base, and they were expecting to be granted permission by the SBA administration.
“At the moment, officials from the asylum service, social welfare services, and health department are at the British bases recording and processing the requests of the refugees,” Michaelidou said. “There is an action plan and according to the results, it will be applied. The civil defence is prepared to provide its services if needed”.
So far, neither the bases nor state authorities provided any official information as to the refugees’ point of departure and where they were headed.
The Cyprus News Agency reported that in a video released by the bases, two of the refugees claim to be Palestinians and not Syrians and that their final destination was Germany.
The two men, CNA said, claimed on camera that they were promised they would be taken to Greece and from there to Germany. They also said that before arriving at Akrotiri, they had been on the boat without any food and water for three days.
The British bases still host a very small number of Iraqi Kurds who landed on a ramshackle fishing boat in 1998, and who are effectively stateless.