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Coronavirus: UNHCR pleased with improved living conditions of asylum seekers

File photo: The refugee camp at Kokkinotrimithia (Christos Theodorides)

The UNHCR office in Cyprus said on Monday they are pleased that steps are being taken to improve the living conditions of asylum seekers.

They said they remain hopeful that other measures will be introduced soon to resolve other pending issues refugees and asylum seekers are facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The UNHCR Representative in Cyprus, Katja Saha visited the Kokkinotrimithia centre on April 14 and said that, after a handful of asylum seekers at both Kokkinotrimithia and Kofinou centres have developed Covid-19 symptoms, tests were conducted and came back negative.

However, she added that “no mass tests have taken place and there are currently no plans for mass testings at the centres.”

A spokesperson for the ministry of health announced later on Monday that ten per cent of the entire population at Kokkinotrimithia and Kofinou centres will be tested for coronavirus.

Saha explained that for refugees and subsidiary protection beneficiaries who are outside the centres and who develop symptoms, the same protocols as in the case of nationals are applied. 

“However, this is not the case for asylum seekers who are not eligible to register with the general health scheme and, as such, they have no personal doctor to consult if symptoms persist,” Saha said.

She pointed out that national public health and other responses should include refugees, asylum seekers and address the particular risks affecting them.

In regards to her visit to Kokkinotrimithia emergency reception centre she said she was pleased to note that steps were being taken to improve the living conditions of asylum seekers, namely the installation of additional sanitation facilities, including more mobile showers and sinks with running water, and enhanced lighting of the camp.

“UNHCR also appreciates the ministry of interior’s confirmation that further transfers of some 800 remaining asylum seekers from hostels to the crowded camp are not considered,” Saha said.

However, she added that the UNHCR remains concerned that, following the decision to turn Kokkinotrimithia into a closed centre, some 600 asylum seekers are staying in a closed tent camp, many for more than two months.

“During the visit to the camp the residents shared many health related concerns and called for improved health care, in addition to sharing concerns about the presence of minors in the camp, among the adults,” she said.


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