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Asylum-seekers complain to UNHCR about their deteriorating living conditions

15 December 2017

©UNHCR Cyprus
UNHCR team meets with a group of asylum-seekers

UNHCR met today with a group of asylum-seekers and refugees and heard their grievances regarding their living conditions and future prospects in Cyprus. They are vulnerable individuals who fled war torn countries and human rights violations and are today faced with immense difficulties in their daily lives due to the inadequacies of the reception system. They mentioned among others the pressing risk of becoming homeless, the systematic delay in the issuance of the food coupons and the insufficiency of the provided assistance in general. At the same time they underscored their desire not to be dependent on government assistance, but to be given better opportunities for employment and vocational training in order to achieve the soonest possible self-sufficiency and become contributing members of the host local society.  

 “Time and again, over the last four years, UNHCR Cyprus has raised its serious concerns with the government regarding both the conditions at the Kofinou reception centre as well as the social assistance asylum-seekers living in the community receive which is below the national poverty line. I regret to say that no progress has been made yet. We reiterate once more our call on the government to carefully review its policies with a view to ensuring a dignified standard of living for people who have sought protection in Cyprus from war and persecution,” says Mr. Damtew Dessalegne, UNHCR Representative in Cyprus.

 The voucher system is ineffective, inefficient and disempowering.  The majority of the asylum-seekers are severely materially deprived because of the level of social assistance they receive. With 220 Euros per month in social assistance an asylum-seeker is expected to cover the cost of food, clothing, utilities, transportation, and all other essential needs other than accommodation.  For housing, a rent allowance of 100 Euros is paid.    Employment is not allowed for the first six months and after that waiting period it is allowed only in limited sectors requiring unskilled labour such as farming, animal husbandry, garbage collection and car washing.

The meagre rental allowance of 100 Euros asylum-seekers receive and the irregularity with which it is paid has led to a growing problem of homelessness. In the course of the last month, Welfare Offices in Larnaca and Limassol have arbitrarily decided to reduce their rental allowance from 100 to 50 Euros.  Unable to meet their contractual obligations towards the landlord, they could face eviction at any time. Among those affected are vulnerable female asylum seekers such as young women, single mothers and victims of trafficking.

In a report published in April 2017 and shared with all relevant governmental departments, UNHCR has thoroughly documented the main shortcomings of the national policies relating to the reception conditions for asylum-seekers and specific recommendations for addressing them.

You can find the report at http://www.unhcr.org.cy/fileadmin/user_upload/Images/ReceptionConditionsRecommendations.pdf

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