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Cyprus

Municipalities ask for help for refugee estates

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Municipalities called on the government on Tuesday to provide assistance for the maintenance of public areas in refugee housing estates, despite that the majority of the properties now belong to private individuals, as local authorities are unable to cope.

A delegation of the Union of Municipalities (UoM) attended the House refugee committee which was discussing the problems faced in refugee housing estates. The estates were built by the government after the 1974 invasion to house refugees. The government was responsible for their maintenance but after it began gradually handing title deeds to occupants about a decade ago, the majority of the houses are in the hands of private individuals, transferring responsibility of maintenance of public spaces of these estates to municipalities.

But local authorities claim they are unable to take on the additional and disproportionate work load dumped on them without being offering the corresponding funds.

According to head of the UoM, Larnaca Mayor Andreas Vyras, local authorities have been left with large public areas in these refugee estates such as common spaces, unfinished squares and infrastructure problems that cause houses to flood when it rains.

He added that the owners of these houses pay municipal fees and that municipalities offer some services but that they cannot tackle all the problems the government left behind.

“We have repeatedly asked the government to give municipalities the budget it has reserved for these estates for maintenance, or for the town planning department to do the repairs and other work that was left unfinished,” Vyras told the Cyprus Mail.

He added that former Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos had agreed to a five-year plan during which the town planning services would carry out works on these estates.

“We were told that some actions had been taken, but they need to pick up the pace,” he said.

During discussion at the committee, he said, it was decided that the UoM would prepare a list with all that needs to be done in all refugee estates and submit it to the town planning department.

Committee head Akel’s Skevi Koukouma, said that these problems include maintenance and repairs of pavements and other open spaces and parking lots.

Disy’s Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis said even though the government bears responsibility for how the quality of life of people living in refugee areas is shaped, municipalities cannot receive taxes from these people and “not implement a balanced development policy”.

He said that local governments have no policies aimed at integrating the refugee world in communities and municipalities, thus creating ghettos within their boundaries.

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