Has Cyprus become a heartless society?
It is easy to get lost in the everyday fug of routine life where job and family commitments keep us on our toes, but have we become a less caring and more selfish society.
And if we are a hardnosed, couldn’t-care-less community, do we feel guilty enough to change it?
There are many examples in Cyprus where the vulnerable are usually left to fend for themselves with the minimum of help or attention, especially if they are outsiders, be it migrants or the poor working class.
If you are non-Cypriot, vulnerable or without means, then the system is not going to save you either by design or default. There is no such thing as care in the community for the elderly, sick, mentally ill or the disabled.
Our health and social welfare system are simply not designed that way. Normally it is up to the parents, grandparents or wider family to act as carers or offer financial support and shelter.
Cypriots like to give generously to charities, help their fellow neighbour and they rallied round during the financial crisis to operate and support food banks for those fallen on hard times.
But there seems to be a general disconnect when it comes to how we treat the most vulnerable in society; are we doing enough for victims of domestic violence, are children of sexual abuse getting the best possible treatment, what about those suffering a mental illness and is Cyprus doing its utmost to integrate migrants, and other minority groups?
If we scratch the surface, I’m sure many of these areas will be deemed less than satisfactory, but then arguably it’s the same for every other country on the planet.
It is a question of resources, staffing levels, financing and a political determination and sensibility to put society’s hidden scars on the agenda.
Nevertheless, politicians will only act if they deem that public opinion will not tolerate such a state of affairs, but there are very few of us standing up for migrants, the mentally ill and domestic violence victims.
Cyprus itself is a bit of a basket case, divided by an ageold conflict that paralyses political rapprochement. The island sees itself as a modern European state with all the flashy trappings of capitalism at work, but provides few safety nets for those who get swept away by the gold rush.
Cypriots have rebuilt their lives from the ruins of 1974 with more than a quarter of the population still considered refugees.
Despite the travails that Cypriots have suffered they are suspicious and unwelcoming of migrants or asylum seekers.
We forget that generations of Cypriots left Cyprus to find work in a foreign country – they were not welcomed with open arms and treated like second-class citizens.
This is an island proud of its hospitality in receiving four million visitors a year, but a village in the Larnaca district has rallied to prevent a centre opening that will care for unaccompanied children who have lost everything and need support.
Dozens of Zygi residents this week blocked officials wanting to start work on revamping an empty army camp into a place where scared children can feel safe.
These enlightened folk argue their community is too small to absorb a bunch of kids with no parents. They feel their way of life will come under threat if 100 migrant kids suddenly turn up at the school or need to be housed.
The Zygi community leader says the government didn’t consult them first before going ahead with the centre that has received EU funding.
Obviously, there is no logic behind feeling threatened by unaccompanied children who are traumatised, but bigotry, prejudice and racism have no reasoning.
This serious lack of compassion has seeped through into other areas as highlighted by the horrific death of a nine- year-old Roma girl allegedly stabbed to death by her 13-yearold brother in Larnaca.
Here is another story of a family left to struggle alone with an absent mother, a father without permanent work and two young children left unattended.
Did social services do all they could for these people or was the fact that they were Roma and marginalised that it was okay to turn a blind eye.
The boy was being monitored for his behaviour, but nothing is done to properly treat him, according to the distraught father. During the stabbing incident, the father was absent, neighbours heard the cries for help but nobody seems to have intervened in a timely fashion.
Could more have been done or is our social welfare system totally inadequate and tainted by prejudice? These are unsavoury questions to raise, but nobody seems ready to confront them.
More must be done for families with troubled children while additional expert assistance should be available for kids who face issues of anxiety and depression.
It should also worry us that there is no juvenile delinquency programme to help rehabilitate problematic teenagers, which is why the 13-year-old boy was sent to a psychiatric hospital.
We need to invest in our social welfare system, not just in building high-rise towers for stay-away millionaires who want a Cyprus passport.
More should be done to givecare where it’s needed