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Boat

According to the Cypriot authorities, the Center of Coordination Research and Rescue (ΚΣΕΔ) of the Ministry of Defense, received yesterday Thursday 25th September at 06:25 am, a mayday through a wireless device from a small boat which was floating 50 nautical miles southwest of Paphos’s coast, while there was severe rough sea condition.  Aboard of the ship were 345 refugees, including 293 adults and 52 children[1]. According with information of KISA- Action for Equality, Support, Against Racism, the majority of them are originally from Palestine and up to recently were hosted in the Yamurk refugee camp, which is situated in Damascus-Syria, while all the rest are refugees from Syria[2].

Questions are raised by the fact that while the ΚΣΕΔ received the mayday at 06:25 am, the rescue mission and collection of the refugees concluded at 14:30 pm, thus eight whole hours after the first signal was received by the competent authorities. Further questions are raised by the fact that firstly, demand for help was signaled by the cruiser “Evagoras” of the maritime police, which sailed from Paphos’s port in order to approach the wayward boat and help in the rescuing of the refugees, however immediately afterwards returned back to the port since it was in a position to proceed due to the rough sea. Precisely because of this fact, ΚΣΕΔ called the cruise-ship “Salamis-Filoxenia”, which sailed to the area and collected the people on board of the boat. While all these was happening, the Minister of Justice and Public Order, Ionas Nicolaou, stated that “each of them took their responsibility and I believe that we responded quite, if I may say, successfully up to now, regarding at least the duties we have[3].

Concurrently, KISA publicly condemns the competent authorities and a big part of the media which continuously refer to “illegal-migrants”, which are also ungrateful even though they were rescued, since they ask to be transferred in another EU member state. In particular, characteristic is the statement of the Minister of Defense, Christophoros Phokaides, which while yesterday’s rescue mission was underway and while the boat was situated in waters of the Republic of Cyprus stated that “if it is needed, a rescue mission while undergo” of the “illegal-immigrants”. Even worse, while the boat had already sent a mayday in the middle of a rough sea, the Minister of Defense stated that “if there is an immediate danger for human lives, then we are ready to intervene”, adding that “in case there is no life danger and leaves our responsibility premises, then there is no way which we can act”[4].

The statement of the Minister reveals in the worst possible way the current asylum seekers and refugees reception policy of the Republic of Cyprus, which aims exactly in either for them not to come to Cyprus or either into making their lives difficult so to be forced to leave. Based on up to date facts, contrary with the rest of the EU member states, the Republic of Cyprus provides subsidiary protection status, which is in its time-framework limited. In addition, the lack of programs for actual integration of refugees into the Cypriot society, as well as the lack of the possibility of temporary transition to another EU member state, after the provision of international protection, leaves these people without hope and prospect for a safe and decent living.

Besides all these, when the cruise-ship arrived yesterday at 20:30 pm to the port of Limassol, the refugees denied to descend and continued to ask for their transfer in Italy, which was their first country of destination. Following the unsuccessful long hours of negotiations between the competent authorities and the refugees who lasted from 9pm last night until 5am this morning, an action by the Special anti-terrorism squad and the Mobile Immediate Action Unit (MMAΔ) of the Cyprus Police took place, resulting in the refugees being forcefully escorted out of the cruise-ship.  As a matter of fact, according to KISA’s information, a person which refused to disembark the ship was molested and injured by a member of the police force.

The refugees were then transferred to a specially formed reception center in Kokkinotrimithia. A characteristic showing the psychological state in which the refugees were is the fact that one of them attempted to suicide with a wire. The physical situation of the refugees seems to be in equally bad conditions, since up to now two children were transferred by ambulance to the Makarios Hospital in Nicosia, for medical care. One of the children has thalassemia and has not been subjected to blood transfusions for over two months, while the other child is affected with syndrome of Down and manifested fever. Additionally, around midday a woman was transferred to the Nicosia General Hospital, while presenting serious health problems[5].

Despite the fact that members of KISA went to the refugees reception center in Kokkinotrimithia, they were not allowed to get in direct contact with the refugees; an act that infringes the fundamental principle of unrestricted access of Human Rights NGOs in refugees and asylum seeker’s reception centers, in order to ensure the unhindered access of such persons to the right to freedom of information in asylum and international protection procedures. It is noted that the independent and objective information to the refugees and asylum seekers, even before their submission of request of asylum, are determined in the Refugee Law of the Republic of Cyprus, in the community directives of the EU, in the relevant guide of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and in international conventions.

 

KISA Steering Committee

 

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Notes to the Editor:

[1] Γραφείο Τύπου και Πληροφοριών, Πέμπτη, 25 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014.

«Επιχείρηση Μαζικής Διάσωσης από το Κέντρο Συντονισμού Έρευνας και Διάσωσης». Πρόσβαση:
http://www.pio.gov.cy/moi/pio/pio.nsf/All/3A134FAA44236C1DC2257D5E002E7976?Opendocument

«Ανακοίνωση Τύπου Υπουργείου Άμυνας Επιχείρηση Μαζικής Διάσωσης (Δεύτερη Ενημέρωση)». Πρόσβαση:

http://www.pio.gov.cy/moi/pio/pio.nsf/All/21588794A88F8EEFC2257D5E004D79F0?Opendocument

«Ανακοίνωση του Υπουργείου Άμυνας – Επιχείρηση Μαζικής Διάσωσης (Τρίτη Ενημέρωση)». Πρόσβαση:

http://www.pio.gov.cy/moi/pio/pio.nsf/All/6E3663195293E20AC2257D5F0021C6A8?OpenDocument

«Έκτακτη σύσκεψη στο Υπουργείο Εσωτερικών για την υποδοχή μεγάλου αριθμού ξένων πολιτών σε συνέχεια επιχείρησης διάσωσης». Πρόσβαση;

http://www.pio.gov.cy/moi/pio/pio.nsf/All/42DE4FB9607F1B8DC2257D5E00435E4F?Opendocument

 

[2] BBC News, Sunday, 22 June 2014. “Syria crisis: Ceasefire agreed for Yarmouk refugee camp”. Πρόσβαση:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27969293

The Guardian, Wednesday, 26 February 2014. “Queue for food in Syria’s Yarmouk camp shows desperation of refugees: Huge crowd of Palestinians is photographed waiting for aid in Yarmouk, which has been under blockade for month”. Πρόσβαση:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/26/queue-food-syria-yarmouk-camp-desperation-refugees

The Guardian, Saturday, 19 April 2014. “Besieged and terrified… and the food is about to run out for Damascus refugees: Syrian blockade of Yarmouk refugee camp raises fears for 18,000 people left starving inside, with some already resorting to eating leaves and animal feed”. Πρόσβαση:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/19/syria-besieged-refugees-yarmouk-starvation

 

[3] [3] Ο Φιλελεύθερος, Παρασκευή, 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014. «Ικανοποίηση από τον συντονισμό των Υπηρεσιών: Επιτυχής επιχείρηση διάσωσης 345 μεταναστών». Πρόσβαση: http://www.philenews.com/el-gr/koinonia-eidiseis/160/220222/epitychis-epicheirisi-diasosis-345-metanaston

[4] [4] Ο Φιλελεύθερος, Πέμπτη, 25 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014. «Αίσιο τέλος για τη μεγάλη επιχείρηση διάσωσης: Αρνούνται να κατέβουν από το πλοίο οι 345 πρόσφυγες». Πρόσβαση: http://www.philenews.com/el-gr/koinonia-eidiseis/160/220050/arnountai-na-katevoun-apo-to-ploio-oi-345-prosfyges

[5] Ο Φιλελεύθερος, Παρασκευή, 26 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014. «Ανακρίνονται “καπετάνιος” και “μηχανικός” του πλοιαρίου: Στο νοσοκομείο τρεις πρόσφυγες από τη Συρία (εικόνες)». Πρόσβαση: http://www.philenews.com/el-gr/top-stories/885/220231/sto-nosokomeio-treis-prosfyges-apo-ti-syria-eikones

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