The president of Cyprus pledged Monday to make conditions at an overcrowded migrant camp “more humane” following criticism that the living arrangements for more than 350 unaccompanied minors there were inadequate.
President Nicos Anastasiades said after a brief visit to the Pournara camp on the outskirts of Nicosia, the capital, that any “deficiencies” at the camp that arose as a result of an influx of migrants will be “dealt with accordingly.”
The commissioner for children’s rights, Despo Michalidou, last week called conditions at the camp “miserable,” including poor food and a lack of sanitation facilities.
Anastasiades said difficulties were to be expected when nearly 5% of the ethnically split Mediterranean island nation’s population are asylum-seekers. He said Cyprus has the highest number of asylum applications per capita among the European Union’s 27 nations.
Interior Minister Nicos Nouris announced Monday that 92 of the 356 children at Pournara have already been relocated to hotels while accommodations for another 150 will be found soon. He said the overcrowding at Pournara will be alleviated once the migrants are transferred to a newly-constructed reception center 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital.
Cyprus was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded following a coup by supporters of union with Greece. The Cypriot government accuses Turkey and breakaway Turkish Cypriot authorities in the north of orchestrating the arrival of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and elsewhere to seek asylum on the island.
Cypriot officials say 85% of all asylum applicants first arrive in the north and cross the porous, United Nations-controlled buffer zone to seek asylum in the south.
The EU has pledged to help the Cypriot government cope with its migration issues.