Cyprus Mail

Migrants risking lives by crossing busy highway outside reception camp

ournara 02
The Pournara reception centre

In recent weeks reports of motorists witnessing migrants crossing the busy highway on foot outside the Pournara reception camp for refugees near Kokkinotrimithia have increased at an alarming speed.

In order to visit the village of Kokkinotrimithia on the other side of the highway from the camp, migrants are expected to use an overpass bridge, but this is located around three kilometres away from the Pournara facility.

To avoid such a long walk to the bridge, some migrants have found a shortcut by crossing the highway on foot. With drivers travelling at speed, it is extremely dangerous for them and for motorists alike. It is also illegal.

“At about 5pm last Friday I was driving towards Nicosia with someone overtaking me driving at around 140 km/h when I saw three men, one carrying a pallet above his head, trying to climb onto the central reservation as they made their way across the highway. They were lucky the car didn’t hit them,” a witness told Cyprus Mail on Monday.

On top of that, even without crossing the highway, various motorists have also reported seeing people walking along the side of the highway, dangerously close to ongoing cars.

“I was on the highway, around 8.30 pm one day last week when suddenly out of nowhere, a group of eight to ten people were walking on the side of the road,” another motorist told Cyprus Mail.

“They did not seem to worry about the cars or the dangers they were putting themselves in. It is very disturbing to watch something like this, since it makes you wonder if a car is going to run over them, or if a driver might get confused and crash.”

Kokkinotrimithia community council president Christakis Meleties said sightings of groups of people leaving the Pournara camp and crossing the highway on foot have intensified lately.

“We started receiving reports of them crossing the highway on foot around three months ago and since then we receive more every week, it’s unacceptable,” he told the Cyprus Mail.

“Their actions put them and other people at great risk, no matter how far the overpass bridge is from the camp.”

Meleties said the police know about the situation but also added that there is little the authorities can do.

This was confirmed by the director of the Road Transport Department Yiannakis Georgiou.

“Police officers went several times to the Pournara camp to explain the risks of walking along and across the highway, but unfortunately the situation has not improved. On the contrary, we are getting more and more calls from concerned motorists as the weeks go by,” he told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.

“I just hope they understand that their lives and the lives of others are at stake.”

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