Deputy Welfare Minister Marilena Evangelou on Monday defended a decision to construct unaccompanied minor residential units in Limassol a day after nearby residents held a protest.
Residents of Yermasogeia and Ayios Athanasios took to the streets in protest on Sunday after reports that social welfare structures were to be built, expressing absolute disagreement with “any form of structure for any purpose” in their neighbourhoods.
The authorities were widely criticised for mishandling the whole matter, foremost, for not properly informing affected residents about the details of the planned installations.
Speaking to CyBC on Monday, Evengelou acknowledged there had been a communication lapse.
“We are not speaking about large structures or huge buildings but about small ‘family’ units and a centre,” the minister said, emphasising that services such these already operate smoothly and unobtrusively in several areas of Nicosia.
The minister clarified that it had been decided to build three structures in Limassol areas after the state service was unable to find suitable properties for purchase.
“One will be a small day centre, similar to one operating in Ayios Andreas in Nicosia, without any problems – essentially a children’s ‘second home’ offering activities and services such as safe premises for underage victims of domestic abuse to be able to give their testimonies,” Evangelou clarified.
“The others are two homes for children who are wards of the state, in once case housing around eight teenage girls with live-in staff,” she added.
Evangelou took pains to emphasise that the whole philosophy of the welfare ministry was to turn the tide away from creating more “ghettoised” situations-such as those that developed in Paphos, where unaccompanied minors were housed in sprawling complexes resulting in unrest, delinquency, crime and institutionalisation.
“Our goal is small, community-based accommodation, where any child, who for whatever reason becomes a ward of the state, can be properly cared for in a home close to schools, leisure activities, police and other services,” the deputy minister noted.
“We are talking about children here, not ‘unaccompanied minors’,” she added, seeking to challenge the assumption that the residences in question were to house only irregular migrants or asylum seekers.
“The children could be children from anywhere who happen to be need of protection from the state,” she said.