By Evie Andreou
ONLY six out of the 115 refugees who landed ashore at Akrotiri last month, have been transferred from Dhekelia to the government controlled areas on Wednesday as they have filed for asylum in Cyprus, according to civil defence spokeswoman Olivia Michaelidou.
The refugees will be hosted temporarily at the reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia.
“Normally, they should have been transferred to the Kofinou reception centre for asylum seekers but due to lack of available space there, they were taken temporarily to Kokkinotrimithia,” Michaelidou told the Cyprus Mail.
The group landed a fortnight ago on board two boats at Lady’s Mile beach, within the British Sovereign Base Area (SBA). The refugees claimed they were heading for the Greek island of Rhodes.
The transfer of the seven asylum seekers to Kokkinotrimithia is part of an agreement signed between Cyprus and the UK in 2003, according to which Britain is legally responsible for handling asylum seekers who arrive directly on SBA territory, but that Cyprus grants access to services in the republic at cost to the British government.
State officials had announced that Cyprus will host all asylum seekers and process their applications. The agreement stipulates that Cyprus must grant asylum seekers arriving directly in the SBA free medical care, welfare benefits, the right to apply for a work permit and access to education. The UK “will indemnify the Republic of Cyprus for the net costs incurred.”
The refugees, who have been put up in lodgings outside the perimeter of the Dhekelia military base about a week ago, made claims on Tuesday of alleged maltreatment and called on Prime Minister David Cameron to let them travel to the UK.
An SBA spokesman refuted their claims and said that the refugees have access to three meals a day, shelter, privacy and communications, “which United Nations staff have visited and say exceeds the standard of comparable set-ups.”
He reiterated that the UK government will not allow a new migrant route to open up through its military base on the island.
The refugees, in their majority Palestinians and Syrians, made the news earlier in the week over an attempted suicide and the burning of a tent on the temporary reception site in Dhekelia. On Saturday, unknown members of the group set some of the tents on fire, the video was posted on the social media app ‘whats-up’ and widely circulated in the British media.