On 20 February, a 25-year old refugee from Congo passed away at the Athalassa Psychiatric Hospital. The deceased did not face any mental problems nor did he have any such history. On 13 February, he was taken by ambulance to the Emergency Department of the Nicosia General Hospital (NGH) from Pournara centre, where he had stayed since last November, without access to suitable accommodation, food and medical care. In the morning of the same day, the administration of the Center was informed and instead of making sure that he received immediate treatment, he literally threw him out of the Center. The doctors on duty at the NGH could not even communicate with him because of language barriers and instead of keeping him there for the required examinations he was transferred to the Athalassa Hospital, where he died 6 days later.
On 9 February, a 15-year old unaccompanied minor from Somalia attempted to kill a 17-year unaccompanied friend of his. The two of them were staying in the same room with 12 other unaccompanied children in totally unsuitable living conditions. The room was so small that it could not even hold enough beds, which resulted in some children having to even share beds. The said unaccompanied minor is still missing with all the risks that this may entail.
Last December, clashes broke out among unaccompanied children in the “safe zone” “hosting” unaccompanied children. The Police were called and the police officers participating in the operation entered the space clad in antiriot gear and started to beat indiscriminately with globs any child they saw or running to safety.
The above are only the tip of the iceberg called “Pournara”. Inhuman, humiliating and denigrating living conditions, deficient access to health care, gender-based violence and exploitation of women, mistreatment of refugees by the guards and the administration are daily phenomena.
On 12 March, a KISA volunteer accompanied the coordinator of the European network Migreurop to Pournara. During our visit, security guards of the Centre violently attacked us. Instead of taking measures against the guards to protect the activists from violence, the Ministry of Interior submitted a complaint to the Police against them for illegal entry to the Centre.
In the past, a Pournara governor was taken to the Emergency Medical Services of the NGH in a bad state of health after using addictive substances while on duty at the Centre. This incident as well as a complaint for violence against refugee women were covered up because he is a close relative of the then competent Minister.
The above are only indicative of the prevailing situation. KISA is of the opinion that primarily responsible for this is the Ministry of Interior, which has deliberately turned the Centre from a site for temporary “hosting” and first reception for a few hours to a site of punishment and violation of the fundamental rights of refugees because they exercise their right to asylum, which is a fundamental right according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. We emphasise that, according to the Refugee Law, the Asylum Service, which is under this Ministry, coordinates the actions of all authorities involved for the implementation of the Refugee Law.
Also responsible is the Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare which, as the guardian of unaccompanied children, should act having their interests at heart.
Finally, also responsible are the academic institutions, academics and officials of non-profit companies that continue to participate and contribute with their presence and involvement in all the above.
- The resignation of the “responsible” Ministers and the closure of Pournara in its present form.
- The withdrawal of all academic institutions and non-profit companies that serve the above policies as “subcontractors” of the Ministry of Interior and thus have a share in the blatant violations of the rights of the refugees at Pournara.