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Children’s rights watchdog appalled over conditions at Pournara

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The children’s rights commissioner Despo Michaelidou on Wednesday said it is the state’s duty to guarantee food, protection and acceptable health and hygiene conditions for children at the Pournara reception centre in Kokkinotrimithia until a permanent housing solution is found for them.

Michaelidou’s statements come a day after around 30 unaccompanied minors protested over living conditions on the street outside the centre, very close to the motorway.

“Having children on the street leaves them exposed to many risks, which is a violation of their rights,” Michaelidou said after her visit.

“However, returning them to the centre does not benefit them either and cannot be considered an acceptable option.”

She added that authorities are currently investigating Tuesday’s events, as well as assessing the living conditions for all children at the Pournara camp.

“I have repeatedly addressed the problem with the competent authorities, but, so far, the situation for children has not seen any substantial improvement.”

Michaelidou said that, according to several unaccompanied minors on the street on Tuesday, breakfast consists of only a small piece of bread each, without any drink.

Moreover, a single small bottle of water each is distributed among them in the afternoon “and it normally has to last the entire day.”

“The hygienic conditions are also appalling,” she continued. “Around 15 people sleep in each room, usually sharing beds, resulting in children often ending up sleeping on the floor. On top of that, the roughly 300 children housed at the centre are forced to share two toilets and a single shower room.”

Michaelidou added that there are no planned activities, nor educational programmes for children at the camp, which exacerbates their feelings of anxiety and uncertainty.

“All these things combined pushed around 30 children to leave the camp on Tuesday and protest against the living conditions. They feel frustrated because they have completed the procedures to finally leave the camp, yet they are still there,” she said.

“What is worse is that they told me they will leave the camp and take it to the street once again, should the authorities fail to find a suitable accommodation for them.”

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