Cyprus Mail

Zygi residents irked over decision to house unaccompanied foreign children in community (updt)


Residents of the village of Zygi were up in arms on Thursday over a government decision to house unaccompanied children under 14 from Syria at an abandoned military camp in the area.

In a post on its Facebook page, the village council accused the government of deciding to house the children in the abandoned barracks without even asking the community.

The residents, led by the head of the community, Georgia Michail, vowed to fight the decision with all means at their disposal.

“We will close roads, we won’t let anyone enter the barracks,” Michail said on the thread under the post. “Over our dead body. There will be a large protest with all the surrounding communities.”

The council said they had found about the decision by chance when Michail saw people inside the barracks and asked them what they were doing.

It said that last year they had asked the government to hand over the area to be used by the community as a campsite and to host sports facilities. No response has been given so far.

“The (labour) minister was unyielding to the alternative options we had proposed,” to house the unaccompanied children, the post said.

Under the post, people expressed their outrage at the decision — one suggested using the army-issued weapons they have at home to prevent the government from going ahead. Another voiced concern that the children will inevitably attend the local school.

A source at the labour ministry said the centre’s construction and operation were fully funded by the Council of Europe and the UN. It would be the fifth in Cyprus and could house up to 100 children.

The others are in Nicosia, two, and one each in Larnaca and Limassol, hosting some 150 children.

Asked about the alternatives the community leader was referring to, the source said she went to the ministry and asked: “why Zygi and not Asgata, or Mathiatis, or Lythrodontas where there are also abandoned barracks?”

It is understood that Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou told the community council that only one-third of the camp will be used and the rest can be given to them but the proposal was rejected.

In a statement later Thursday, the labour ministry said the creation of the centre was “absolutely necessary” so that Cyprus can provide unaccompanied children who arrive because of the war in the region with the essentials.

The cost of construction, €1.5m, and the €925,000 in annual operating costs will be picked up by the Council of Europe Development Bank, European Economic Area grants, and Norway

The decision had been published in the government gazette in March.



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