Authorities use the cover of the pandemic to commit human rights abuses during the covid-19. An African asylum seeker, living in Cyprus, who was recently detained indefinitely, without committing any crime.
“I feel worse than a prisoner because of the way we are treated here.” These are the desperate words of Daniel African asylum seeker.
Daniel has been waiting for his asylum claim to be heard for over a year. He was detained on the 5th of May by the authorities and confronted with a stark choice, “go back to your country of origin with a nominal sum of money, or be locked up at the Kokkinotrimithia Reception Centre”.
It’s a choice that many are being forced to make while the world focuses on the Covid-19 pandemic.
Kokkinotrimithia reception center was designed for newly-arrived refugees, who would stay for a maximum of 72 hours.
In recent months the Ministry of the Interior has been rounding up long-term Cyprus residents and placing them in the camp.
Recent estimates put the small camp’s crowded population at around 600, and its numbers are increasing daily.
Despite Cyprus’ strict lockdown rules, people are being taken from relatively safe accommodation and placed in makeshift tents where social distancing is impossible.
Some tents house as many as eight people, with cots that are just a few inches apart.
The crowded tents are sweltering during the day and freezing cold at night. There are no groundsheets, and when it rains, the tents are inundated with water.
Some meals consist of nothing more than bread or plain pasta. Access to water, toilets, and washing facilities are all limited.
The detainees are not allowed to leave at any time and are under constant guard by the police.
Some of the asylum seekers who have already been detained for several months recently went on a hunger strike in protest at the conditions.
The Ministry of the Interior has claimed that the arrests are to keep people safe during the pandemic. Still, KISA has pointed out that the plans for these measures were announced before the lockdown.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned that overcrowded camps at Kokkinotrimithia and Kofinou create a higher risk for Covid-19 and that it may prove impossible to contain outbreaks in such environments.
Lockdown measures are set to end on 21st May, but for these asylum seekers, the hardship looks set to continue much longer.
Note – Daniel is an alias. His name and certain minor details have been changed for his own protection.