Has Cyprus be­come a heart­less so­ci­ety?

Just Words...

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS - By Char­lie Char­alam­bous

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

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