By Cynthia Ngum – Nicosia, Cyprus, Tuesday, May 26, 2020.
A reception center in Cyprus, an island country in Eastern Mediterranean built to serve as a 72-hour shelter for migrants seeking asylum for first aid and medical check-up, is now home to over 800 refugees for over three months.
A cross-section of representatives from non-profit organizations such as Caritas, Sunday, May 24, 2020, visited the Pournara reception center in Nicosia, the capital city of Cyprus to educate the refugees on their rights to freedom and better living conditions.
The visit and teachings fanned the flames of a protest on May 25, 2020, which was not welcomed by the authorities who retaliated with tear gas to scare off protesters.
The protesters, backed by the NGO, resorted to throwing stones to counter the attacks and chased off the entire administration of the camp.
The camp’s administration, in a statement, expressed frustration over the issue, claiming it’s powerless and awaits a decision from the government on the fates of the refugees.
The refugees said they were grieved by the inhumane treatment the country’s police meted on them.
Police stormed the Pournara Refugee Camp in the capital Nicosia, Monday, May 25, 2020, and tear-gassed refugees who were protesting, a victim further said.
Many refugees also shared a video with National Telegraph of a refugee in black rolling on the ground at the camp after the confrontation.
The refugees also said they were demanding for just basic Human Rights but were shocked when the police treated them like “slaves”.
Refugees complained of very hot temperatures in their tents by the day causing the tents to stink considering the air-tight nature. This attracts snakes, they said.
They are not allowed to go out or even receive visitors and the quality of food being served them is nothing far from tasteless. They have to stand in long queues to access the showers which cause some to go for days without a bath.
The government of Cyprus has in the past projected to the International Community it treats refugees according to norms.
But Caritas has maintained detained refugees are being used by the Cypriot government to extort money from the European Union, an accusation the government has refused, insisting that the detention is aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caritas is a confederation of 165 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Their missions are to work to build a better world, especially for the poor and oppressed.
Cyprus now has 939 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 17 deaths in a pandemic that has globally infected more than 5 million people with 350 thousand deaths.