From file: Migrants at Pournara queue for food each day at the camp, where conditions have been described as 'appalling' | Photo: InfoMigrants
From file: Migrants at Pournara queue for food each day at the camp, where conditions have been described as 'appalling' | Photo: InfoMigrants

After a fire broke out at the Cypriot migrant reception center in Pournara, at least six people are injured and have been taken to hospital in the capital Nicosia.

The fire in the Pournara reception center broke out early on Wednesday, May 11, confirmed Cypriot police to the German news agency dpa.

At least six migrants, reportedly from Nigeria, have been taken to hospital with burns and injuries as a result of the fire. The fire services are still looking for the cause of the fire, said the Cypriot state broadcaster according to dpa.

The fire is thought to have broken out at about 4:30am, reported the Cyprus Mail, and was put out by security guards employed at the center. Firefighters then "arrived at the scene for examinations," added the Mail.

The condition of the six people being treated in hospital is reported as "stable," confirmed the Cyprus Mail.

Conditions at Pournara criticized repeatedly

The conditions at the Pournara reception center have been criticized repeatedly, both by inhabitants of the camp as well as by NGOs who work with migrant rights and the UN.

The president of the Republic of Cyprus, Nikos Anastasiades, visited the camp in the middle of March this year and described conditions there as "tragic." The camp has a capacity of 1,000 but around double that number are actually resident in the camp, reports dpa.

The country's childrens’ rights commissioner, Despo Michaelido, also visited the Pournara camp in March and, according to the Cyprus Mail, said she were "appalled" at what she found there.

Michaelidou commented after her visit that, "having children on the street leaves them exposed to many risks, which is a violation of their rights. However, returning them to the center does not benefit them either and cannot be considered an acceptable option."

Breakfast consisted of 'only a small piece of bread with no drink'

The children’s commissioner described breakfast at the camp for unaccompanied minors as consisting of "only a small piece of bread each, without any drink." She added that each child was given a "single small bottle of water in the afternoon ... and it normally has to last the entire day."

Michaelidou added that "hygienic conditions are also appalling." She said that when she had visited, about 15 people were sleeping in each room "usually sharing beds, resulting in children often ending up sleeping on the floor. On top of that, the roughly 300 children housed at the center are forced to share two toilets and a single shower room."

Children in the camp were not offered any activities or educational programs, pointed out Michaelidou, according to the Cyprus Mail, and that left them feeling anxious and uncertain. At the end of March, at least 50 unaccompanied minors had been transferred from the Pournara facility to another camp at Paphos "with more expected to be taken [to Paphos]" shortly after.

Also read: Rama's story of a migrant life in Cyprus

A divided island

Fights have also regularly broken out in the camp, as tensions are quickly heightened between the various ethnic groups who share space there.

Most of the migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus come via the northern Turkish controlled part of the island which is not part of the EU. From Turkey they fly in to nothern Cyprus before attempting to cross over the Green Line on foot or by car.

The island has been divided since 1974 and in 2004 a referendum of islanders decided that only the Greek-speaking southern part of the island (The Republic of Cyprus) should be allowed to join the EU. Only Turkey recognizes the northern part of the island as an actual state.

The Republic of Cyprus has called on the EU repeatedly to help it with the reception of migrants and asylum seekers on the island. Many of whom wait months, if not several years, before their asylum claims are processed.

With dpa

 

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