Interior Minister Nicos Nouris’ numbers regarding HIV/AIDS cases in Pournara migrant reception centre were proven false as per documents presented to parliament in June by the Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Christina Yiannaki.
According to information from the parliament, in 2021 a total of 11,181 migrants were given medical exams at the camp, and out of those authorities found 109 cases of HIV/AIDS, 373 of hepatitis B, 52 of hepatitis C, 53 of syphilis, and 11 of tuberculosis (TB).
Yiannaki had given the information to parliament on June 29, 2022, and information was also available for the first six months of the year as well.
The report she presented showed that from January 1, 2022 until June 28, 2022 a total of 8,933 migrants were tested at the camp, and authorities found 76 cases of HIV/AIDS, 317 of hepatitis B, 36 of hepatitis C, 31 of syphilis, and 20 of TB.
All the cases are being treated accordingly, she had said.
These numbers come in sharp contrast to the number presented last Thursday by Nouris, who had been given his numbers by authorities at the camp.
Nouris had told CyBC there were 1,100 residents at Pournara who had been diagnosed as HIV positive and another 800 have tuberculosis.
In their clarification, the ministry said that the numbers were given to him by camp officials, and that the numbers he cited relate not to a fixed point in time but over an extended period –about 12 months.
His statements caused an uproar leading opposition political parties and NGOs to react.
“We believe that HIV infection cannot be used as a tool to cultivate fear and racism. We call on the honourable minister to apologise immediately and publicly for his statements and for the serious adverse impact they have caused,” a statement issued by the AIDS Support Movement, Generation for Change, Cyprus Family Planning Association and the Cyprus Refugee Council had said.
“This rhetoric can only be described as unacceptable as it perpetuates and contributes to xenophobia and racism, while stigmatising groups of people who are already in a position of vulnerability, as well as people with chronic illnesses,” they added.
The NGOs also said the numbers mentioned by the minister are greatly exaggerated.
“According to data collected by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC), in the past two years, the number of new HIV cases recorded in Cyprus was estimated between 150 to 170 annually,” they said.
The statement was quickly backed up by opposition party Akel, which called Nouris’ comments on the issue “irresponsible and dangerous.”
“Not only, as the interior minister, is he responsible for the situation in Pournara, but he continues to instrumentalise fear in our society,” the party said.
“Yesterday’s fiasco is a perfect example of how the minister and the government in general are managing the immigration issue.
“Toxic xenophobic rhetoric and public lies are not the right solution. Immigration is a serious topic and needs a minister who is, first and foremost, serious and responsible.”