CIVIL DEFENCE AND UNREGISTERED IMMIGRANTS
First reception of unregistered immigrants
In 2014 the Cyprus Civil Defence assumed responsibility for the first reception of unregistered immigrants and the operation of the First Reception Center in Kokkinotrimithia area in the former “Pournara” military camp.
The Pournara Center was created in order to address the growing needs arising from mass arrivals of people from third countries in need of international protection. This is one of the major challenges in managing migratory flows, which Cyprus is called upon to face in line with its international obligations and as a Member State of the European Union.
This mission activates the “Naucrates” Plan, under which the Cyprus Civil Defence assumes responsibility for coordinating the operation on a regular basis and at the same time organizing the first reception camp.
The Naucrates Plan
The Police, the Coast Guard, the Cyprus Joint Rescue and Coordination Center in Larnaca, the National Guard, the Asylum Service, the Social Welfare services, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education and others are involved in the “Naucrates” Plan, as well as organizations and international organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and the Red Cross.
The Cyprus Civil Defence effectively accomplishes this mission by mobilizing its forces and coordinating other relevant services immediately after receiving the first signal of mass arrivals of informal immigrants. Such arrivals occur at anytime from anywhere, by sea or land, mainly by non-controlled roads due to the extensive cease fire line.
Mass arrivals of unregistered immigrants
The magnitude of the challenge and the intensity of the uncontrolled migration flows have become apparent since 2014, making the whole mission critical for the Republic of Cyprus.
The Cyprus Civil Defence has hosted in the Pournara First Reception Center from 2014 onwards, a steadily increasing number of immigrants each year. The first mass arrival came with the detection of wreckage on an unmanned vessel by the cruise ship “Salamis” in September 2014. A total of 339 people were accommodated at the Pournara Center. Arrivals of unregistered immigrants continued during the two years 2015 – 2016 and 515 people were accommodated. Since then the flow has more than doubled and in 2017 the Civil Defence accommodated 1001 people at the Pornara Center and in 2018, another 1120 people. Only in the year 2019, and based on the most up-to-date data (2019), the Civil Defence has accommodated 2210 unregistered immigrants.
First relief and care
Throughout the years, the Cyprus Civil Defence has mobilized its forces from the first moment of arrival, coordinating the rest of the services and sending directly to the scene personnel for first relief, reception and care: from the Northwest sea corridors to the Tilliria Tower, Latchi, Akamas, or the Southeast, Protaras, Ayia Napa and Dekelia and even from every uncontrolled point along the cease-fire line in the plain of Mesaoria.
The conscripts, permanent personnel and volunteers, demonstrate a high response and commitment to their mission. They serve the values of humanity and of helping people at risk, tortured and in urgent need of support, while at the same time contribute to the fulfillment of Cyprus’ international obligations under Refugee Law and the implementation of the EU Common Asylum and Migration Policy.
The Cyprus Civil Defence achieves maximum coordination of the relevant services and mobilization of its Volunteers, as well as local authorities: first relief, essentials (food, clothing, shoes) and transfer to police centers for identification, followed by transfer to the Pournara First Reception Center for a few days’ stay during which unregistered immigrants usually express their intentions by applying for asylum.
Organization of the Pournara Center
Civil Defence executives demonstrate their professionalism in responding and organizing the first reception, aware of the circumstances in which they are called upon to provide support.
Its members are called upon to handle humanely and with sensitivity people who are vulnerable because they were in danger, abused or even tortured and exploited, do not have their own means of maintenance, are afraid or feel suspicious and, at the same time, need to understand their rights and obligations: pregnant women, unaccompanied children, elderly people, single parent families, victims of trafficking, people at risk or suffering from health problems or in need of psychosocial support.
At the same time, members are aware of the peculiarities of dealing with immigrants, as they have different national, cultural, religious and social characteristics.
At the Pournara First Reception Center, Civil Defence has ensured the smooth cohabitation of these temporarily accommodated people until the required procedures are completed and they are released: fingerprinting, medical and epidemiological examination, preliminary examination, asylum application, psychological support etc. There is a medical office on site, staffed by the Ministry of Health, while residents are also served by public hospitals if needed. Residents at the Center are offered three meals a day.
The Cyprus Civil Defence has demonstrated its ability to adapt to new and increased demands for our state and society in regards to managing the complex migration phenomenon.