By Andreas Izamis
Lone asylum seekers can find themselves living on the streets for days before they can find accommodation and are exposed to exploitation, claims NGO Caritas Cyprus.
Despite the fact that asylum-seekers arriving in groups seem to be met responsibly by the state – they are provided with accommodation, food and safety.
Individuals arriving in the country, however, often find themselves living on the streets for days before they can find accommodation.
In a recent letter to the Interior and Labour Ministers, Caritas Cyprus Nicosia branch coordinator Gosia Chrysanthou outlined the difficulties and dangers faced by asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers who cannot be accommodated in the Kofinou Reception Centre fall under the responsibility of social welfare that provides them with an emergency allowance of €100-€150 per person.
The emergency allowance is insufficient and forces asylum seekers to choose between accommodation and food. If they choose to use their emergency allowance for accommodation, they go hungry.
Problems are further compounded as the first food coupons take at least a month before they are issued. Furthermore, the first rent subsidy arrives after two months, leaving the asylum seekers at odds with their landlords.
Asylum seekers who opt for shared accommodation have reportedly fallen victim to exploitation, where they have been forced to hand over their emergency money or coupons for couch or floor space, while a case of attempted rape and sexual exploitation have also been reported.
Benefits for asylum seekers who are single is €320 per month: €150 in food coupons, €70 for utilities and small expenses and a maximum of €100 per month for accommodation.
Benefits are not secure as, after nine months, asylum seekers depend on Labour Office registration where they are more often than not declared unemployable and are often refused registration on the slightest pretext. Their files are closed and their benefits terminated.
Chrysanthou suggests increasing the emergency allowance or directly providing accommodation to newly-arrived asylum seekers.