Survivors of cancer and relatives of those who lost the battle are taking their struggle before the European Court of Human Rights following Wednesday’s shocking ruling on Astrasol factory by the Supreme Court.
According to the appeal ruling, a causal link between the cancers and the operation of the shoe sole plant was not proven. Even though an epidemiologist testified and reported that the factory emitted carcinogenic substances.
The initial ruling by the Nicosia district court in December 2017 had awarded damages to 22 plaintiffs and found Astrasol factory in Latsia guilty for toxic gas emissions and for causing cancer to nearby residents.
Residents had more than welcomed that ruling and a report in Phileleftheros headlined “Astrasol: Vindication and Bitterness over the 45 lives lost” said it all. It was accompanied by photos.
Here is the full humanitarian story:
They were waiting for us outside the now shut ‘Astrasol’.
There was Ionas Kkailis, a cancer patient himself and the one who ‘awakened’ the whole neighbourhood after losing his wife because of cancer.
And Kyriakos Michael, a man who worked at the factory and has been fighting cancer for eight years now.
“It has attacked me everywhere,” he said, referring to cancer. “At the liver, the spleen…nothing solid has been left behind” he added before giving us a welcome handshake.
Chrysanthos Pafitis is also there, with them. He lost his wife at the age of 45. He was left alone to raise their two children.
Standing close by is Mrs. Nitsa, a cancer patient herself and Neophytos Ioannou whose wife had diagnosed with the disease but, luckily, she had overcome it.
In the house very close where we stood the mother, son and daughter had developed cancer.
“On the same day we were getting ready to go to the Court for the decision, we learned that the father had also been diagnosed with cancer. It is hair-raising,” said Kkailis.
“We had the poison in our houses. We were shouting for years that they were killing us but no one was listening,” he added.
“We have sent letters everywhere. Doors were closing in our face at the Town Hall. But when we finally rose up, took over the factory and closed it down our hard work and struggle started to pay off. Now with the decision of the Court we have been vindicated.”
It is one thing to vaguely hear on TV or radio that 52 cases of cancer were recorded in one or two streets and that around 45 people had died.
And it is another thing to see these people face to face and hear them talk about the struggle until their goal was achieved. Meanwhile, they had described one after the other their own battle with the disease which is perhaps humanity’s greatest nightmare in terms of health.
“Everything started,” said Kkailis, “when we realized that in our area we had cancer patients in almost all houses. We kept asking for measurements but, for five years, not a single measurement had been taken.
“When the results finally came out, the percentage of carcinogenic substances was much above the permissible limit. They didn’t listen to us, again.
“We took labels from barrels they had outside the factory. I took them to doctors and they confirmed that they were carcinogenic substances.”