Asbestos nightmare in refugee housing

TWO million pounds would be needed to remove the asbestos roofs from over 1,000 homes and other structures, the House Refugee Committee heard yesterday.

Its chairman Aristofanis Georgiou said the problem of asbestos roofs in refugee estates and Turkish Cypriot residences was far greater than initially thought.

Georgiou said there were over 1,000 such structures and the cost to remove the deadly material would exceed £2 million.

President Tassos Papadopoulos has ordered the creation of a committee tasked to handle the removal and management of the asbestos, the committee heard.

The committee gave the state a month to inform them about the committee’s authority and the expected cost of removal.

And a request would be put to the finance ministry for the necessary funding so that the asbestos would be removed under the safety criteria set by the Labour Ministry.

DISY deputy Lefteris Christoforou said the delay was unacceptable and constituted gross negligence on behalf of the state.

For 30 years, refugees were exposed to the harmful effects of asbestos with no response from the state, he said.

The opposition deputy said the state was responsible for the situation and urged the government to realise that it could not fool around with people’s health using the excuse that previous governments had also refused to put their hand deep in their pocket.

Asbestos roofs, which were used extensively in the past, are still part of the island’s scenery, especially in government buildings.

Respective governments have dragged their feet on the matter resulting in Cyprus missing a 2004 EU deadline for the removal of all asbestos.