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Cyprus

Statements regarding unaccompanied minors draw ire

File photo: Unaccompanied minors at a reception centre

A message from Cyprus’ law commissioner urging for unaccompanied minors to be kept in premises away from other children sparked a wave of ire on Wednesday, that also embroiled the country’s deputy welfare minister.

The spat began after Deputy Welfare Minister Marilena Evangelou announced that any damages incurred following fights between unaccompanied minors in Paphos, would have to be paid out-of-pocket by the minors themselves.

Pundits responded with fury, asking where they would be paying the money from, sarcastically questioning if it will be deducted from the minors’ 13th salaries.

Other members of the public questioned why Greek Cypriot children who cause damages in schools have not been required to follow the same rules.

Cyprus’ law commissioner and chairwoman of the gender equality committee, Louiza Christodoulidou Zannetou, however, praised Evangelou’s initiative, responding to the post by saying “it is also important to remember that the premises [where the unaccompanied minors] will live in, or will be created for them, do not neighbour areas that have children i.e., schools, sports facilities, so as to avoid conflicts between them.”

Pundits were quick to remind Zannetou that unaccompanied minors are also children, and efforts should be made for their integration, rather than their segregation.

Many netizens expressed shock and shame over the proposal, with one urging Zannetou to re-read her title three times, to realise the irony of someone whose job deals with equality, but posts ideas suggesting segregation.

Other users sought to stress that equality is not only for genders but also for races.

Zannetou was not immediately available for a Cyprus Mail request for comment, however she subsequently responded to an academic saying they were speechless that she meant it “purely for precautionary reasons to avoid conflicts, for the protection of all children.”

She added she had been misunderstood.

Sources from the deputy social welfare ministry said Evangelou’s decision was not meant as a punitive measure “but as a symbolic one.”

The money will be deducted “gradually and in small amounts” from an allowance they receive from the state. The ministry could not immediately disclose how many minors this affected, the cost of the damages, how much the allowance amounts to or how much would be deducted.

“It is a symbolic amount, they will still be able to live their life,” the ministry source said.

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