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Ministry says municipalities ‘being paid’ to clean refugee estates

The ministry said municipalities are collecting taxes and should resume cleaning refugee estates

By Andria Kades

MUNICIPALITIES have stopped cleaning refugee estates citing an apparent lack of funding, with the interior ministry on Thursday hitting back saying local authorities collect taxes to do this work.

After a House refugee committee earlier this week heard problems people living in refugee estates face, including open spaces which are not cleaned and lack of road maintenance, the committee decided to send a letter to the interior and finance ministers asking them to study ways in which the situation and lives of people living there could be improved.

Local authorities and municipalities had complained to deputies the problems could not be solved due to low staffing, budget cuts and lack of funding – something the interior ministry is responsible for.

On Thursday however, an announcement from the ministry sought to set the record straight in no light tone.

“Local authorities receive fees and taxes from refugees and non refugees, for offering various services like cleaning, waste collection and generally anything that falls under their responsibility based on their relevant laws.

“These fees are reciprocal, meaning they should be collected and spent on related services.”

Without mincing its words, the ministry went on to add a sarcastic jibe to the statement saying, “we fully understand the concern and worry of certain people due to upcoming elections.”

It also went on to add those who were going against the ministry behave like “they consider refugees, second class citizens. Meaning, I take money from them but I wait for the state to offer services for which they have already paid to the municipal and community councils.”

“Clearly, this is a form of discrimination towards refugees from the part of complaining local authorities and their lawyers.”

The complaints brought before the committee were submitted by the mayors of Ayios Athanasios, Geri, Ayios Dometios, Strovolos and Larnaca.

Deputies also heard, and the ministry also reiterated, that several of the estates already have titles or are in the process to obtain one.

Despite this, the ministry allocated a €13m provision in their 2016 budget concerning maintenance of refugee homes and flats, compared to €10m the previous year.

Next week, Interior minister Socratis Hasikos is also set to meet heads of local authorities on a Cabinet approved bill aiming to reform local government.

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