RS Express – The Forgotten Refugees
How can we help refugees in Cyprus?
Our co-founder, John, has spent that last few days investigating how we can use our aid with dignity model to help refugees in Cyprus.
Even though we have managed to negotiate a continued stay at Katsikas camp, we have continued investigating how we can support refugees elsewhere.
Over the past two years, we have helped Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and Central American refugees on the US border. Whilst we are predominantly active on-camp in Greece, it is always in the forefront of our mind how we can help refugees all over the world.
John has been sharing his findings and thoughts from Cyprus with us on Facebook for the last few days. Here’s what he has found. We will be needing some help setting up a project in Cyprus in April, so please get in touch if you would like to get involved.
I arrived in Cyprus on Thursday evening. We have been monitoring Cyprus for about 6 months now, as the number of refugees arriving either direct from Turkey or Lebanon has increased greatly. Earlier this year, numbers rose to over 12,000, and we felt it was time to see what we could do to help.
Yesterday, I attended a meeting with UNHCR in Nicosia to discuss this crisis. UNHCR kindly invited three local NGOs to attend the meeting so I could get an understanding of what is going on from people working on the ground. It soon became obvious that the main problem is a lack of support: there are no large recognised NGOs in Cyprus, and Cyprus is overwhelmed and cannot cope with the large numbers of refugees.
I will spend next week looking at what Refugee Support can do long term to help as the numbers increase weekly. There are thousands of refugees living on the street and in makeshift squats, and at present, there are only 2 official camps with capacity for less than 1,000 people.
We will act very quickly thanks to our donors who continue to support our work. We will be needing volunteers to help, so watch this space for information.
Today I was joined by two volunteers, Sue Daniels and Jenny Common, as I continued to try and get a better understanding of the refugee crisis in Cyprus.
As I walked round Nicosia and Larnaca, I started to question figures that I had heard of the number of refugees currently in Cyprus. I have heard figures ranging from 12,000 to 15,000, but it seems there are many more. During our meeting, the UNHCR told me that that there are only 10,000 registered refugees in Cyprus, as they struggling to cope and registration is slow. They acknowledged that there are more who are not registered.
We visited one of the two official camps at Kofinou that houses over 300. I spoke to one of the resident families: a Syrian family of four living in one room with shared toilet with another family. I have to say I have seen worse camps, but this is not a race to the bottom, and no one should be living in these conditions.
We intend to set up long term projects and will move as quickly as possible, but we must ensure we balance that with what is needed.
Sunday in Nicosia is very quite in the morning.
I made my way to a church in the old part of Nicosia, as I had been informed that they provided hot meals on a Sunday at lunch time for those Refugees living in parks and on the streets. As we approached the old city of Nicosia, we saw many refugees in the parks.
We found the church and spoke to the volunteers from Caritas who were preparing the food. It was not long before people started arriving and formed a very orderly queue.
There is so much needed here that it is difficult to know where to start. We have to be sure that we spend our donors’ money where it will make a difference. I have decided that I will return to the UK on Wednesday, and take a ten day break to think things over. I will then return with some volunteers and start on our long term projects.
Thank you everyone for your offers of support, we simply can not function without it.
Thanks for reading, and please stay tuned for more news about our plans to help refugees in Cyprus, and some more news about our status at Katsikas camp.
Please contact us today at [email protected] if you’d like to find out more about helping refugees in Cyprus and Greece.