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Decent housing is the main problem asylum seekers in Cyprus face, UNHCR study shows

With less than 10 per cent of asylum-seekers in Cyprus accommodated at the Kofinou Reception Centre, decent housing is the greatest problem thousands of asylum seekers are confronted with, a UNHCR report on “The Living Conditions of Asylum-seekers in Cyprus” says.

According to a press release issued by UNHCR, the inadequacies of the reception conditions for asylum-seekers in the Republic of Cyprus have long been cause for serious concern to the UN Refugee Agency. “To acquire an in-depth knowledge of the problems as a basis for charting a way forward, UNHCR commissioned the University of Nicosia to carry out a comprehensive study on the reception conditions of asylum-seekers in the country focusing on five key areas: employment, housing, education, social assistance and community relations,” the press release added.

As it is noted, the study involved desk research, one-on-one and group interviews with nearly 600 asylum seekers across the country and further interviews with government officials, NGO representatives and other key stakeholders. From these interviews and careful review of relevant legislation, policies and practices, the researchers were able to ascertain how the existing reception modalities for asylum-seekers operate and feed into the broader national asylum system and related policies and procedures.

“The overall picture emerging from this study is not encouraging. With less than 10 per cent of asylum-seekers in the country accommodated at the Kofinou Reception Centre, decent housing is the single greatest problem thousands of asylum-seekers are confronted with. An additional major difficulty identified in the Study was the long waiting period before asylum‐seekers would be allowed to work, as well as the employment sectors they are restricted to thereafter,” UNHCR said.

Furthermore, it noted that “these already vulnerable individuals and families who are unable to work or cannot find work are severely materially deprived because of the level of social assistance they receive that is significantly below the national risk-of-poverty threshold.”

“This report is not a work of academic research,” said Damtew Dessalegne, the UNHCR Representative in Cyprus, “but primarily a call to action for better standards of treatment of refugee applicants in a manner that asserts the value of asylum. I hope that policy-makers as well as refugee advocates will find in this study food for thought.”

Accordingto UNHCR, the report has been shared with the competent governmental authorities and will be presented and discussed at an open public event on 24 May in Nicosia.

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