LOCAL authorities may not refuse to bury foreign permanent residents in their local cemeteries, provided they have available graves, nor can they charge foreigners more than the locals are asked to pay for a grave, according to Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou.
The ombudswoman launched a probe into media reports of local authorities denying burial grounds to British expats, though they were permanent residents, in the villages of Tala and Peyia, Paphos, in 2014.
Extensive media coverage prompted the ombudswoman’s probe, which concluded that the practice of refusing permanent residents burial and two-tier charging for burial plots is “illegal and contrary to all principles of equality and justice”.
Savvidou has called a meeting with Interior Minister Sokratis Hasicos, Municipalities Union chief Alexis Galanos, and local-authorities union boss Andreas Kitromilides, in order to find ways to resolve such distortions.
Foreigners charged more
In 2014, the Tala municipality was reported as having denied a 96-year-old British woman, as well as a British man – both of whom were permanent residents – a burial plot, citing limited availability.
But even after 27 new burial spots were added to the cemetery, the Tala local council decided Cypriots were to be charged €850 for each, while foreigners would be asked to pay €2,000.
Asked by the ombudswoman to comment on the incidents, Tala community leader Areti Pieridou said the available spots at the cemetery did not suffice to cover the community’s needs, and thus she decided to keep them for exclusive use by Cypriot residents.
She added that the council was in the process of finding space for a new cemetery, which would resolve the issue once and for all.
‘Lack of basic humanitarian care’
In the case of Peyia, British permanent residents had reported that the cemetery tax levied on them was higher than that of the locals, and so was the price for a spot in the village’s Catholic cemetery.
To these complaints, Peyia mayor Neophytos Akourshiotis replied that, following requests by foreign residents, the municipality bought a plot of land, which has since been used as a Catholic cemetery.
Thus, the price for plots in this cemetery is a direct result of the price paid for the plot, which cost a lot more than the price of the land for the Orthodox cemetery.
“This perverse and incomprehensible way of handling the issue of burying Christians at the Tala cemetery constitutes a lack of basic humanitarian care, and a lack of respect for different cultural and religious traditions,” Savvidou said in her report.