Forty-four years ago, 160,000 Greek Cypriots and 40,000 Turkish Cypriots became refugees. That generation which experienced a childhood in refugee camps and settlements, waiting in line for some food, foster families, the ships that left for Greece, and the airplanes that left for England, America and Australia, is still alive.

We are a people who know what it means to be a refugee. Today another Cyprus still lives abroad, since many of those who left our homeland back then as refugees in the summer of 1974 have never returned, but have built their lives as refugees in foreign lands.

How is it possible that a people with such experiences for certain forces and circles to be attempting to sow into its consciousness that the children victims of an unjust war are not wanted here?
Unfortunately, this perception has found fertile ground that has been cultivated, I regret to say, through statements and approaches that were recently made by the President of governing DISY party about “the alteration of our demographic character” and the President of the Republic himself with references to “illegal immigrants”. The ultra-right is exploiting this fertile ground, attempting to spread fanaticism, intolerance and racism against refugees seeking shelter in Cyprus.

The first thing I want to say about the case of the Reception Centre in Zygi is to call on everyone to look in the mirror and to understand that we are talking about children. These are children who have ran away from hell and are looking for a shelter. Is our human spirit such that we declare these children as unwanted?

In the face of the unwarranted and racist reactions of a section of residents of Zygi, otherwise a community composed largely of refugees, the Government must brief residents about all the parameters and ensure the functioning of the Reception Centre, focusing on the interests of unaccompanied children. The question is directed primarily towards the Government. How does the government itself approach these children? Is it aware of its obligation to embrace them or does it believe they are a burden? These children, like all children, aren’t simply asking for a plate of food, but for protection, security, emotional support, integration into education programs and a smooth social integration.

As AKEL, we have tabled the whole issue for discussion in the House of Representatives Human Rights Committee, where we will demand to be informed about the handling of these children and in other reception centres too.

We call on the state and political leadership to take a position on the matter and to work collectively to respond to the political and humanitarian duty of providing support to these children. We call on the various organizations and initiatives, as well as the Cypriot people to express their solidarity with the unaccompanied children and refugees seeking shelter in Cyprus.

The children aren’t asking for a plate of food, but for protection, affection, emotional support, integration into education programs and smooth social integration.

Statement by the General Secretary of AKEL Andros Kyprianou

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