Cyprus Launches Probe into Claims of Child Sexual Assault at Migrant Camp

Migrants women from Syria walk with their children in a refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia, outside of the capital Nicosia, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. Cyprus police say a 36-year-old man was arrested Sunday for allegedly driving one of a pair of boats that …
AP/Petros Karadjias

The government of Cyprus is launching an investigation into allegations of the sexual assault of underage girls at a migrant centre.

The investigation comes after a United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) official made the allegations. The UNHCR officer also revealed that the Cypriot government had not separated boys and girls from adult migrants and that they were only kept apart from adults in the showers by a curtain.

Children’s rights commissioner of Cyprus, Despo Michaelidou-Livaniou, claimed that there had also been reports that underage girls had been groped at the Pournara migrant reception centre while they lined up for food, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reports.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris slammed the UNHCR official for not reporting allegations of sexual assault to the police instead of waiting several days to bring up the matter at a parliamentary meeting earlier his week.

He went on to say that due to the large number of asylum seekers arriving in Cyprus, the Interior Ministry was doing the best job it could and no prior allegations of sexual abuse had taken place.

While Cyprus is not known as the European country with the most asylum seekers overall, it is the country with the most asylum seekers per capita in the European Union. According to local authorities, most asylum seekers arrive by crossing the border from Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus.

Former Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides went as far as suggesting that the government of Turkey, headed by Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was purposely helping traffick migrants into the southern part of the island.

“Not many of them are refugees. These are economic immigrants who abuse or exploit this particularity,” Petrides said in November.

Sexual abuse allegations have also surfaced in migrant camps in Greece with the UNHCR warning in 2018 that they had received reports of sexual violence in overcrowded Aegean island camps.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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