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UNHCR deeply concerned about asylum-seekers trapped in Buffer Zone


UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said it’s deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of some 31 asylum-seekers including seven children, who are trapped in the UN Buffer Zone (BZ).

UNHCR released a press statement concerning the situation of the asylum- seekers trapped in UN BZ.

“Five of them entered the Pournara reception centre to apply for asylum after crossing the BZ but were later removed from the centre by police and pushed back to the BZ” said in the press release .

According to the latest reports, at least two of these people, including an unaccompanied child from Syria, are now missing, while others are in need of medical and psychological attention.
While those in the BZ are being provided with food, water, clothing and basic facilities through the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) with UNHCR’s support, they are accommodated in precarious conditions, in tents exposed to extreme temperatures which have surpassed 40 degrees Celsius in the past days. Cyprus has offered emergency medical care in the state hospital, but the persons have been returned by the police back to the BZ following discharge.

“This situation requires urgent action. As we have underlined in communications with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, ensuring effective access to asylum procedures and adequate reception conditions is an obligation under international refugee law. The European Commission has also reiterated that the Republic of Cyprus must apply and enforce all aspects of the EU acquis,” said Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Regional Director for Europe.

The statement continues as follows:

“These must be applied in the areas of Cyprus where the Government of the Republic of Cyprus can enforce its legislation, including the BZ.

This incident comes amidst a spate of actions which are effectively shrinking the protection space of Cyprus. This includes the implementation of concerning new measures by the government of Cyprus which affect Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers, including suspending the processing of their asylum applications as of mid-April. This measure has affected more than 14,000 Syrian asylum seekers.
UNHCR has also witnessed the resumption of arrests, sometimes with the use of force, of asylum-seekers attempting to submit a subsequent application, in order to subject them to return proceedings.
Furthermore, in recent months, there have been multiple reports of the interception and subsequent pushback of boats carrying asylum-seekers attempting to reach Cypriot shores. Interceptions and pushbacks at sea and the refusal to refer asylum-seekers stranded in the BZ to asylum procedures result in the risks of direct or chain refoulement for affected asylum-seekers.

UNHCR recognizes challenges facing Cyprus with regards to new arrivals and stands ready to provide additional support to ensure that the fundamental human rights of asylum seekers and refugees are respected.”

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