Donation of mini-bus to facilitate integration and access to essential services
Today the Representative of the UNHCR Office in Cyprus, Ms Katja Saha had the pleasure of handing the keys of a brand-new Opel Vivaro 9-seater mini-bus to the Head of the Asylum Service, Mr. Stavros Christofi, and the Director of the Reception Centre in Kofinou, Mr. Andreas Varnavas. The mini-bus will be stationed at the Reception Centre in Kofinou, to facilitate the access of residents at the Centre to various services beyond the village and the Larnaca area.
“The donation is made to support the Asylum Service in their ongoing efforts to improve the living conditions of the residents at the Reception Centre in Kofinou,” said Saha. “Moreover, we hope that this facilitation of transport of the residents will counter their relative isolation, given the remote location of the Reception Centre, and improve their overall integration into society.”
Residents of the Kofinou Reception Centre are provided with bus tickets from the Government, but only for Larnaca, with limited scheduling available only during the daytime. In many instances, specialised medical care may be required by vulnerable individuals and families staying at the Centre, which can only be accessed in the Nicosia area. Transport measures for such needs can now be readily met. Additionally, much-needed access to social and psychological counselling and free legal advice offered by NGOs such as the Cyprus Refugee Council located in the capital can also be accessed by the residents.
Beyond the increased access to services, the donation of the mini-bus is intended to enhance the integration of residents of the Reception Centre into the wider society. With access to other areas of the island, these families and individuals can have improved opportunities to exercise their right to work and become self-sufficient and contribute to the local society, while not being limited to opportunities available only in Larnaca, the smallest of the three main towns.
The Reception Centre in Kofinou is one of temporary accommodation for newly-arrived refugees and asylum-seekers. Improved transport and access to other areas of the island will also facilitate these people’s search for housing as they transition out of the Centre. It will also enhance their access to late-afternoon education opportunities, such as language classes, that can further their integration into the local society.
“Looking ahead, the next steps for 2019 would be to support the management’s efforts to increasingly engage the residents of the Centre in Kofinou in order to develop a better sense of empowerment and community,” Saha said.
For those who have been forced to flee their homes and homelands, and who have arrived in Cyprus seeking safety for themselves and their families, opportunities to leave the isolated Reception Centre in Kofinou and become familiar with other areas of the island, and interact with Cypriot society are a vital aspect of getting oriented and building their lives anew.