UNHCR saddened at suicide of an asylum-seeker in Cyprus

UNHCR is deeply saddened at the news of a young asylum-seeker committing suicide in Cyprus. Based on the information provided by local NGOs and refugee community members, an asylum-seeker of African descent hanged himself in his room, a windowless basement of a building. According to the same sources, the deceased was led to take his own life due to the insecure housing and destitution he had been facing for the last six months, caused by and large by the severe inadequacies of the social support system that is currently in place for asylum-seekers.

While UNHCR will seek more information on this tragic incident from the government authorities and members of the refugee community, we would like to express our sadness over this tragedy and our serious concerns about the growing problem of homelessness among asylum-seekers in Cyprus and the inadequacy of the national reception system to meet their needs. UNHCR calls for urgent measures to address the lacking reception conditions of asylum-seekers who are not accommodated at the only reception facility in Kofinou.

Housing insecurity has been a cause of great anxiety, and has led a number of asylum-seekers to attempt suicide. While the Cyprus Refugee Law guarantees asylum-seekers immediate access to housing and social assistance once they have presented to the authorities their asylum applications, the present system fails to meet these basic rights placing a number of asylum-seekers at risk of homelessness and destitution.

Homelessness and destitution follows the deterioration of the reception conditions for asylum-seekers over the last two years. UNHCR has repeatedly voiced its concerns over the low level of assistance for needy asylum-seekers that is provided in vouchers and is equivalent to less than half of the Minimum Guaranteed Income (MGI) that Cypriots and recognized refugees in similar circumstances receive. Individual asylum-seekers are entitled to receive 100 Euros as rental allowance, an amount that does not allow finding decent accommodation in the current housing market.

The recent move of premises of the Nicosia District Social Welfare Services has rendered access to social assistance for asylum-seekers even more problematic.

UNHCR issued in May a report on “The Living Conditions of Asylum-seekers in Cyprus” aiming at ensuring that the basic dignity and rights of asylum-seekers are protected in accordance with international law standards.

UNHCR along with many other concerned organisations issued a Joint Statement on the growing problem of homelessness among asylum-seekers in Cyprus in May 2018 with a call to action.