115 refugees saved by Cyprus authorities

115 refugees saved by Cyprus authorities

Nicosia, September 7, 2015/ Independent Balkan News Agency

By Kyriacos Kyriacou

UN refuge agency (UNHCR) commends the Cypriot authorities for their prompt and successful search and rescue operation yesterday that saved the lives of 115 Palestinian and Syrian refugees fleeing the devastating war in Syria.

Among those rescued were 42 under-age children, some of whom travelling alone without their parents or relatives.  Most of the refugees lost their meagre belongings at sea and came without shoes or additional clothing.

In a press release issued Monday, UNHCR says that refugees were placed at the tent camp in Kokkinotrimithia on the outskirts of Nicosia, while three families with special needs  were taken to the more appropriate reception centre at Kofinou village, “though more people with special needs were identified”.

According to UNHCR, “while the authorities are doing their best to meet the immediate basic material needs of the rescued refugees at the Kokkinotrimithia camp, the tent facility does not, and cannot, offer reception conditions in accordance with common EU legislation”.

“Refugees who have lost everything and suffered enormously both before and during their flight should be welcomed into a dignified and caring environment,” said Damtew Dessalegne, the UNHCR Representative in Cyprus.

UNHCR urges the Government to place all the rescued refugees in the Kofinou Reception Center where the living conditions are generally better than those at the tented Kokkinotrimithia camp.

According to UNHCR , the Kofinou Reception Centre is presently operating with its less than half capacity and should be put to good use for its intended humanitarian purpose.

Despite the growing number of people in need of international protection arriving in European shores, it is important to highlight that 86% of refugees remain in developing countries.  So far in 2015, Cyprus received 1,025 asylum applications. This represents 0.2 % of total applications lodged in the EU, according to the press release by UNHCR.