Despite the closure, migrants remain locked up in a crowded camp

The editor of Observateurs de France 24 was able to talk to Emmanuel (his first name has been changed to preserve his identity), a 28-year-old Nigerian who has lived in the camp since early May. Arriving in Cyprus in March 2019, he was first taken to the Pournara camp for 72 hours, before living in an apartment in the capital, Nicosia. He then lived in a shared apartment in Ayia Napa to find a seasonal job. It was in this apartment that he visited the police and social services on May 4.

They told us we had two options: go to the Pournara camp, where we would quarantine for two weeks, or go home. Those who choose to return home will benefit from 750 euros. Some of us have chosen this option. As for me, I decided to obey the government and go to camp.

They made us sign a document stating that we gave our permission to come to this camp. Today they are using this condition against us. The more we obey, the more they use it against us. And if we refuse, they say we are violent migrants.

We no longer get our allowances, so I can’t pay for the apartment I had in Nicosia. I feel like a prisoner. We are divided into different sections, as if we were criminals.

The bread is sent to our Observer for breakfast.

Only one bottle of water is given daily to the people in the camp.

The only place with wifi internet connection is in the common courtyard, but we have to stay in full sun to talk to our family. We try as much as possible to get shelter in the shade of the trees, but there is not enough for everyone. There are flies everywhere and even snakes in tents. Some have been there much longer than us: up to three or four months.

The camp’s residents found a snake in a tent and killed it. They then brought it to the asylum application service as a symbol of the insecurity in the camp. Photo taken by our Observer.

A lot of people outside the asylum application service in the Pournara camp. A person talks in the video and explains that they cannot leave, and that they are afraid to sleep in the tents.

I want to know why the government keeps us locked up here. I have lived in Cyprus for over a year, I have all my documents in order. On what legal basis do they do this? We went to the asylum seeker’s office to ask them to release us, but they told us that we were there on our own, because we had signed a document.