Lawmakers on Monday sought an update on what efforts, if any, are underway to reunite a Syrian family who arrived here as irregular migrants, but were thwarted after the interior minister – in charge of migration issues – did not show up to answer questions.
MPs wanted to know what the government is doing to reunite Syrian woman Kawther Abdalaziz with her family, who arrived on a boat off the coast of Cyprus in August.
The woman was pregnant at the time. She claimed that with her on the boat were her husband, and their other two children – one of whom was under two years old and still breastfeeding at the time.
The woman was processed by authorities here, and applied for asylum. She currently resides at the Kofinou reception centre for asylum seekers.
But her husband and two children on the boat were sent back to Lebanon.
MPs said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has since verified the woman’s account and it has voiced concern over the breakup of the family.
Irini Charalambidou, chair of the House human rights committee, said she has asked the police for a detailed report on the events of the day.
She has also asked the Asylum Service to keep parliament updated, “because it is not possible that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has addressed a letter to the [interior] minister since August 24, where among others it cited the violations of the rights of the child, and to this day no attempt has been made to reunite the family.”
Parliamentarians were angered because Interior Minister Nicos Nouris – whom they had summoned – refused to attend.
“The executive branch needs to understand that they must accept being checked, because that is where I think the problem lies – they don’t like being checked,” Charalambidou remarked.
“Everyone is entitled to their views on migration,” she added, in an apparent dig at Nouris, “but it cannot stand that a woman be separated from her children.”
Nouris had notified MPs he would not attend the discussion, citing the presence there of the migrant support group, Kisa.
In a letter to lawmakers, he said he would not take part in a session with an “outlawed” organisation.
He was alluding to the fact that Kisa, an NGO, has been struck from the registry of associations, on the grounds that it did not submit audited accounts within the timeframe set by the ministry.
In a statement of its own later in the day, Kisa dismissed the notion that it is an “illegal” organisation, noting that it has since applied and been listed as a non-profit on the Registrar of Companies.