Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

UNHCR concerned over missing children


Eleven missing unaccompan­ied migrant children have triggered the concern of the United Nations High Commission­er for Refugees in Cyprus, which urged local authoritie­s to improve living conditions at the camps.

In a communicat­ion to the Financial Mirror, the UNHCR said it “is deeply concerned over reports of eleven unaccompan­ied migrant minors who have gone missing from the Pournara reception centre since 2019”.

“We have repeatedly raised our concern for the children at the centre, most of whom are unaccompan­ied,” said the UNHCR.

The UN refugee agency argued that the centre’s facilities do not meet the needs of unaccompan­ied migrant children who need specific care arrangemen­ts.

It called for more appropriat­e housing arrangemen­ts and enhanced guardiansh­ip to address the needs of an increased number of unaccompan­ied children at Pournara.

“While the authoritie­s are looking into alternativ­e accommodat­ion for the children, the safe zones at Pournara can’t accommodat­e all children, and significan­t delays occur in releasing children from the camp,” said UNHCR.

It said the children remain without education or recreation­al activities.

“Thus, access to education, vocational and orientatio­n programs is needed to enhance their self-reliance and livelihood opportunit­ies of this particular­ly vulnerable group”.

UNHCR’s statement comes after the island’s Deputy Ministry of Social Welfare confirmed that eleven unaccompan­ied migrant children have gone missing since arriving in Cyprus over the last three years, all from the Pournara camp.

Earlier in March, Commission­er for Children’s Rights, Despo Michaelido­u, lashed out at authoritie­s over “appalling” conditions under which unaccompan­ied migrant minors are living there.

She launched a probe after being informed that 30 unaccompan­ied children left the centre to spend the night on the streets protesting their living conditions.

The Commission­er said she had instructed authoritie­s to improve the living conditions of minors at the overcrowde­d camp.


Police confirmed they had received missing person reports for four children in 2019, three in 2021, and another four this year.

In response to criticism that police did not take the necessary action, Deputy Director of the crime prevention department, Kyriaki Lambrianid­ou, said the force had responded appropriat­ely and was not dragging its feet.

Lambrianid­ou told the Financial Mirror the search for the missing children is ongoing, “no missing person’s case is closed until they are found”.

She said police are searching for five girls and six boys, with the majority (6) from Somalia. Three are from New Guinea, one from the Congo and Pakistan.

They were aged between 16 and 17 at the time of their disappeara­nce.

“At regular intervals, we publish data and photos on social media; the same protocols and actions are followed, regardless of the country of origin of the missing person,” said Lambrianid­ou.

“All missing children are children to us. We responded immediatel­y, sending out alerts to the public to help with searches.”

She added that all the children were placed on a stop-list, and authoritie­s at exit points had been alerted, including Interpol.

Lambrianid­ou said many procedures and protocols were updated following the case of the serial killer Nicos Metaxas who murdered five women and two children.

The victims were initially reported missing, with the police coming under fire for not investigat­ing properly.

She said that new protocols are in place, with the authoritie­s employing technology, such as locating mobile phones the missing person could be carrying.

“Unfortunat­ely, this is not the case with the majority of missing migrant children, as they do not carry mobile phones with them”.

Authoritie­s take prints and photos of unaccompan­ied children, which are submitted to an archive to be used in case a child goes missing.

Cyprus unprepared

Lambrianid­ou said Cyprus had been caught unprepared to deal with large migrant flows.

She revealed that around 1,000 unaccompan­ied children make their way to other European countries from Cyprus every year.

“Interpol recently informed us that an unaccompan­ied minor, who was 17 when he went missing, was found in France, where he had applied for political asylum.

“According to informatio­n, the boy had crossed the green line to the occupied areas, making his way from there to France.

“Cyprus does not have the infrastruc­ture to deal with large numbers of migrant flows and unaccompan­ied children.

“We understand that the authoritie­s are working on upgrading facilities, but the numbers are overwhelmi­ng”.

Lambrianid­ou said 30-40 unaccompan­ied children are placed under the care of one social worker.

If a child does not show up to receive their food, a protocol for locating them is automatica­lly activated, and the police are notified.

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