The UN High Commission for Refugees on Wednesday called on the authorities to effectively address the shortcomings of the state support system for refugee women following the murder of a Syrian woman this week.
She had been identified by the organisation as a potential victim of domestic violence when she arrived on the island over a year ago.
Ghada Al Nouri, 31, was stabbed in her flat in Paphos on Monday with the main suspect being her 42-year-old estranged husband, Hussein Farouh, who was still at large.
Police believe he has fled the government-controlled areas and crossed into the north.
Nouri had filed a complaint to police against her husband on January 10 and a restraining order was issued by a court.
“Despite the grave risk, her husband who had consequently been remanded in custody, was released within 48 hours,” the UNHCR said in a written statement.
The agency said they had identified Nouri as a potential domestic violence victim when she arrived in Cyprus almost one and a half years ago.
She was subsequently referred to the relevant authorities to ensure her protection and several local NGOs provided counselling and support, UNHCR said.
Social services paid regular visits to her house and offered to host her at a shelter for victims of violence.
The Syrian mother declined because “she was concerned about the ability to live there with her five children and was seeking assistance to relocate to another apartment, appropriate for her children and away from the perpetrator,” according to UNHCR.
According to the UN agency, Nouri embarked with her five children, aged five to 11, on a wooden boat from Lebanon, cramped with dozens of other Syrian refugees, while her two oldest children, 16 and 17 remained in Syria.
“Becoming a refugee is always an ordeal, but for most women being a refugee is a double jeopardy,” the statement said.
According to the agency, it is essential to introduce standard procedures to identify potential domestic abuse victims upon their arrival on the island as to be able to respond immediately and adequately to the needs of refugee women who lack social protection.
Refugee women who are at risk of abuse might now be discouraged to speak up due to Nouri’s tragic end, added UNHCR.
“The protection of refugee women and girls is a core activity and an organisational priority for UNHCR [which] seeks to closely work with the government to ensure that the specific needs of refugee women are met.”
On Tuesday, the social services strongly rejected suggestions that the department had failed the woman.
Social workers were in constant contact with the victim and she had been given the personal number of the case officer, they said.