Refugees protest against UK base condition in Cyprus
More than 100 Middle Eastern refugees kept at a British base in Cyprus have protested against their condition at the site.
British military authorities confirmed Tuesday that there had been disturbances at the base, but British Forces Cyprus spokesperson Sean Tully said they “will not go into specific details.”
The official, however, said two tents had been set ablaze on Monday and that it was put out by fire services.
The comments came after the website of Britain’s Guardian newspaper posted videos that showed the refugees protesting and complaining about “being treated like animals.” The paper also obtained pictures and audio recordings from the incident.
“I am 12 years old. We are sitting here in the tents and we are cold and we are not allowed to go out from the tents … Please help us,” said one child in a video.
“My name is Manar from Syria, I am a 27-year-old woman. We came here by mistake to escape the war. We spent three days at sea and were close to death … They count us every day as if we were in prison … We can’t stand it anymore,” said another woman, in an audio message.
A total of 114 asylum seekers, including 28 children and 19 women, came ashore on October 21 and were taken to the Akrotiri RAF base before being transferred to the Dhekelia garrison last week. They said they set off from Turkey to reach Greece to seek asylum.
Tully said the refugees who are mostly from Syria, Palestine and Lebanon feel frustrated with their unknown future, while insisting that they are well looked after.
A “handful” of the refugees are said to have asked for asylum in Cyprus. However, the future of the rest is unknown.
“Those who don’t claim asylum may be repatriated; the SBA (Sovereign Base Area) will be responsible for this,” said Tully.
Based on an agreement reached with Cyprus in 2003, the UK is responsible for the asylum seekers who arrive directly at the SBAs on the island.
The British military, however, insists that its bases on Cyprus are “not a back door to the UK. This will not happen.”
Britain keeps sovereignty over two base areas in Cyprus, which won independence in 1960.