The Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women focused on the importance of preventing and meeting the needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children on Monday, following the disappearance of 14 unaccompanied children from the Reception Center and other Pournara Immigrants. The meeting was also attended by the Chief of the Cyprus Police, Stelios Papatheodorou, who assured that the Police “is working intensively and spares no effort to locate the missing persons”.
Answering questions from the members of the committee regarding the accommodation conditions of unaccompanied children in Cyprus, A & # 8217; Social Services Officer Chara Tapanidou stated on behalf of the Social Welfare Services, which are the legal guardians of unaccompanied children, that as a result of the increased migration flows since last autumn, there are currently 855 unaccompanied asylum seekers in the country.
p class = “text-paragraph”>Ms. Tapanidou also informed the committee about the forthcoming recruitment of additional staff by July, which will assist the efforts of the existing officials, while a protocol is expected to be signed with the Mental Health Services and the Police in order to upgrade support for these children. .
From the side of the Asylum Service, which is responsible for the operation of the Reception Center in Pournara, Maria Chrysomila said that at the moment the Center accommodates 196 unaccompanied children, while others have already been transferred to accommodation structures in Larnaca and Paphos. Ms. Chrysomila also informed that the creation of a safe zone with a capacity of 80 people has been launched, which will concern all vulnerable groups.
In his speech during the discussion, the Chief of Cyprus Police Stylianos Papatheodorou said that the issue of the 14 missing is not only related to Pournara, as unaccompanied children have escaped from accommodation structures in all provinces, adding that since June 2019 it has A protocol has been drawn up in cooperation with the English authorities and concerns all missing persons, but also separates those who are vulnerable.
“, Noted the Chief of Police, adding that from 2018 until today there have been 109 cases of unaccompanied missing persons, with 95 of them having been identified.
Mr. Papatheodorou also said that in many cases the real details of the missing children are not known due to their lack of travel documents, often starting with only one photo.
“The Police “He is working intensively and sparing no effort to locate the missing persons, while many resources are given to find these persons, always on the basis of the protocol, which did not exist in the past”, stressed Mr. Papatheodorou.
The Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, Irini Charalambidou, said that the disappearances of children are a very serious issue, as they are teenagers who are particularly vulnerable groups, particularly prone to consider those who get them out of the impasse, while in fact they are likely to take advantage of them. the children.
Regarding the 14 current cases, Ms. Charalambidou stated that in the period 2015-2016 two disappearances were recorded, between 2019 and 2022 another five, while the rest were from October 2021 to April 2022, adding that The Commissioner for the Rights of the Child has submitted a very interesting note in which he highlights all the problematic management that often leads children to a revolution.
“You can not have in closed “prison” for many months children and it seems that you have them in custody. “You can not have officials to supervise them”, said the AKEL MP.
Referring to the work of the Police, Ms. Charalambidou said that she spends time and tries to see these cases, but possibly a separate department should be created that takes into account the specifics of the cases of immigrant children. “More psychologists need to be involved, to reach out to the children, to listen to them, to manage the reaction. We can do a lot more than what is being done at the moment and I hope that there will be the appropriate sensitivities for this issue “, he added.
These 14 children are present, the Chairperson of the committee replied that in the part of the meeting that was held behind closed doors, some cases were mentioned, while she mentioned that there are also children who leave alone and then return.
“The whole issue has alerted the competent authorities, the Police, they are spending the necessary time for the investigation, the issue must be addressed at the level of prevention. “It's all that had to be done and is not done in order to get to the point where children are looking for a way out, often in the wrong hands of people,” he stressed.
Asked if there are cases of child exploitation in Cyprus, Ms. Charalambidou replied that most cases involve the reaction of children who can no longer withstand detention conditions and seek refuge elsewhere, adding that “just to protect them from everyone we must take care of them, give them the necessary support, stop holding them in prisons so that we can integrate them into society. “
The MP of the Movement of Ecologists Alexandra Attalidou stated that the Ministry of Interior must cooperate with the Police, but also the new Ministry of Welfare, to receive the budget, the means and the staff in order to really deal with the issue of the children of asylum seekers. . “All services must address this issue, we are talking about vulnerable children regardless of whether they will be entitled to asylum or not,” he stressed.
“Everywhere you look today, the tide of protectionist sentiment is flowing. we will find and we will find them well “, he added.
Regarding the fate of the missing children, Ms. Attalidou said that according to the Police, some of these children have left Cyprus, while others may be in the occupied territories, while he called on the Police to continue the search in cooperation with Europol and Interpol and other international organizations until there is information about their whereabouts.
In addition, Ms. Attalidou stated that the state should use existing networks to inform countries of origin, such as the Catholic Church network or networks related to mosques in Muslim countries, “so that we can send notice to airports, announcements in schools, to let these children know that when they arrive in Cyprus they are not entitled to asylum so that they do not leave their families and so that the traffickers do not take advantage of them, take their money and in the end have to return to where they started “. p>
Asked whether the children in question may have been victims of pimps in Cyprus, Ms. Attalidou replied that it is the duty of the state and the Police to determine that these children are not in networks, have returned or are somewhere else to close a case.
“It is clear that there is exploitation, around Pournara we hear that I believe that the state should break the bones of anyone who exploits or will exploit a child, because I consider it one of the worst crimes no matter where a child comes from, it is vulnerable and can be exploited even by his compatriots, and I believe that “The state should not leave even half a gap open for the exploitation of children in our country, whether they are our children or children from other countries”, he concluded.