Refugees plead for release from British base

London, Nov 3 (IANS) British defence officials are under pressure to resolve the status of Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Cyprus after the release of a video showing chaotic scenes at a Royal Air Force (RAF) base on the island.

Among the incidents in pictures, videos and audio recordings obtained by The Guardian is an apparent threat by a man to kill himself before British police officers rush in. Separately, a man is seen with his face covered in blood after cutting himself.

In other videos, members of the group of 114 who landed on the island last month, among them 28 children, plead for their release from Dhekelia, one of two British sovereign base areas (SBAs) in Cyprus.

“I am 12 years old. We are sitting here in the tents and we are cold and we are not allowed to go out from the tents … Please help us,” said one child.

Most of the 114 refugees are Syrians but they also include Palestinians and Lebanese. They arrived on October 21.

Under a 2003 agreement between Britain and Cyprus, asylum seekers arriving directly on to the SBAs on the island are Britain’s responsibility, to be granted access to services in Cyprus at Britain’s cost.

This is the second time boats of refugees have come ashore at the SBA.

In 1998, a boat carrying mostly Iraqi and Syrian Kurds was brought ashore with the aid of British forces. However, due to the legal and political status of the base, the group of 67 asylum seekers remain stuck on the base almost 17 years later.

The current group are being held separately from the 1998 arrivals, in a fenced-off area in tents.

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