The NGO Caritas has sent an urgent letter to the Minister of Health and other competent authorities to bring to their attention the issues and practical difficulties faced by refugees and immigrants in Cyprus in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“From what we understand, people with symptoms need to report them through their Gesy personal doctor who will evaluate the situation. Asylum seekers immigrants without documents — and human trafficking victims — do not have a personal doctor and therefore have no substantial access to the healthcare system,” the charity said.
It also referred to the practical issue of language barriers when it comes to requesting information on Coronavirus.
“Asylum seekers and immigrants without documents — including those denied application for international protection by the Republic of Cyprus — face practical difficulties when attempting to contact 1420 and 1450. Many of them don’t speak Greek or English so they can’t communicate with telephone operators.
“In fact, one English-speaking asylum seeker had the phone hung up on him today because he didn’t speak Greek. In addition, some of them don’t understand why they should call 1420 as they have no information on the symptoms or the virus.
“Others may not have phone credit to call and some don’t have an address where they can be reached because they don’t have a home, live outside doors or move between scarce “safe” overcrowded premises,” the charity said.
It said that for the time being “that segment of the population may not need to seek out medical treatment but if the virus starts to spread within its communities, ignorance of the right procedures will complicate their response and will have damaging consequences.”
The letter finally called on the competent authorities to urgently send out instructions on how to offer advice to asylum seekers and immigrants without documents, who need to have access to healthcare services during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The government was also urged to reassure those who may be scared to make themselves known due to their irregular status.
“Other EU member states have adopted a policy for marginalised groups to ensure that their fears do not put public health and safety at risk,” it concluded.
Called to address the letter by philenews, a representative of the Ministry of Interior said that “the Press and Information Office has translated material for foreigners in Cyprus. We consider it a given that everyone has access,” they said.
It was added that recruitment agencies for home assistants have also been asked to disperse information on lockdown measures in Cyprus.
Asked about the Kofinou and Kokkinotrimithia reception centres, they said that soaps, gloves and other necessary items have been sent out.