The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cyprus is in contact with Syrian refugees who been in touch with their office fearing that some of the eight bodies washed up in the north last week may have been relatives or friends.
A UNHCR report said the tragedy underlines the vital importance of rescuing lives at sea and the need for new efforts to combat smuggling and trafficking in human beings, and to reinforce safe alternatives to dangerous sea voyages.
According to the organisation, the number of asylum seekers in Cyprus continues to rise markedly, mainly due to the conflict in Syria, it said.
In 2014, the number amounted to 1,887, in 2015 it was 2,108, in 2016 it rose to 2,871, and in 2017 to 4,499. In total, 1,372 people applied for asylum in the first three months of 2018 alone.
The UNHCR has said separately that with less than 10 per cent of asylum seekers in Cyprus being hosted at the Reception Centre in Kofinou, decent housing was the major and most important problem facing thousands of asylum seekers.
The new report, to be made public on Thursday, is titled ‘Living Conditions of Asylum Seekers in Cyprus’.
In a news release ahead of the presentation, the UNHCR said the inadequacies of reception conditions have long been a cause of serious concern, and its report will focus on five key areas: employment, housing, education, social assistance and community policies.
It includes interviews with some 600 asylum seekers across the country, and further interviews with government officials, NGO representatives and other key stakeholders.
“From these interviews and the careful study of relevant legislation, policies and practices, researchers have been able to see how existing reception patterns for asylum seekers operate within the broader national asylum system and related policies and procedures,” it said.
“With less than 10 per cent of asylum seekers in the country hosted at the Reception Centre in Kofinou, decent housing is the major and most important problem faced by thousands of asylum seekers,” it added.
The report has already been handed over to the relevant government authorities.