Housing is a major problem for asylum-seekers in Cyprus, study shows

Housing is a major problem for asylum-seekers in Cyprus, and some of them, even families with children, may remain homeless for some time, a study commissioned by UNHCR Cyprus and conducted by the University of Nicosia has shown.

The study was presented by Associate Professor of Social Work Stefanos Spaneas, during an event held, on Thursday. According to the study the analysis of the Cypriot reception situation for asylum-seekers demonstrates that the material reception conditions and social welfare assistance have considerable limitations.

“Sometimes I smile not because I like to smile but just to keep being happy with the people I see around me. The accomodation at first was a disastrous one. I dont know if it was because of my colour or because of the payment they give for the house for us. When you call the house owner he or she accepts you to come. The moment you get there and you introduce yourself and he or she discovers that you are an asylum-seeker you lose the house,” Lambert, a young refugee from Cameroon, who arrived in Cyprus a year ago, said during the presentation.

Lambert called on the government of Cyprus to support change the aspect of the living standard of refugees and asylum-seekers in Cyprus. “I want to live a life where I will not be judged by my colour but I will be judged with what I do and what I give, he added.

An additional major difficulty identified by the study is the long waiting period before asylum-seekers would be granted the right to work, as well as the employment sectors they were restricted to thereafter.

“The job opportunities are very limited for us,” Lambert, who is in his mid-20s said. “I left my country as a part-time teacher and the first job opportunity that they gave me here was to walk in a cow farm, he noted, adding that language is also a big barrier for an asylum seeker,” he noted.

On her part, member of the CARITAS NGO Gosia Chrysanthou said, among others, that the accommodation of refugees is a top priotiry for them as it is a matter of safety. “We had a family with four children who lived in the street for three days and later on they were exploited financially. Weve had cases of women who were given sofa space and had to sell their bodies to provide for this sofa space,” she went on to say, noting that the amount of money these people receive to pay their rent (100 euros for a person and 200 euros for a family) is not enough.

The study also found that the voucher system is problematic, time consuming and inadequate, and that there is a lack of

comprehensive personalized needs assessment. Moreover, the constraints faced by asylumseekers regarding their access to psycho-social support services were also verified. The findings of the interviews from both groups, professionals and asylum-seekers, indicate the need to develop alternative strategies of service delivery management, which could significantly improve the quality of services offered.

The recommendations made in the study comprise a combination of measures to be further discussed and adopted by multiple stakeholders policy-makers from the central government, public services, civil society and the local authorities.

As it is noted, the research results illustrate the need to develop strong multi-agency partnerships at strategic and operational

levels, which would respond systematically to the interwoven and often complex needs of asylum-seekers. Guidance and appropriate resourcing is needed to facilitate asylum-seekers’ access to social care, housing and employment, based on established criteria for local residents, such as the cost of living and the poverty threshold, and by recognizing individuals’

rights and the increased vulnerability of those with particular health needs.

The study was carried out from October to December 2017. The questionnaire was administered to 600 participants; however, 511 participants fully completed the questions, and the remaining 89 participants withdrew from the process.

The qualitative aspect of the research included semi-structured interviews with three main groups of participants: professionals from related State agencies and ministries; NGO professionals who are working in a wide spectrum of immigration issues, including with

asylum-seekers and asylum-seekers living in and outside of the Reception Centre. In total, 77 interviews were held.

Asylum Service officer Laura Iacovides referred to the situation at the Kofinou Reception and Accommodation Cente, who is now full, noting the need to find solutions for the people to integrate and move out of the centre.

She acknowledged that asylum-seekers have difficulties to find places to rent for accommodation. As regards the applications for asylum submitted, she noted there is a big increase, adding that from the beginning of 2018 until yesterday they had received 2000 applications.

UNHCR Cyprus Public Information Officer Emilia Strovolidou said that UNHCRs key consideration is that basic dignity and rights of asylum-seekers are protected in accordance with international law standards.

Source: Cyprus News Agency