Claims that there is no interest in the establishment of a crematorium in Cyprus has triggered firm opposition from a funeral home in Paphos which has been at the heart of the campaign for such a facility for years and has applied for an operating licence.
Reportedly only 18 people were sent abroad for cremation over the last decade indicating little demand for the service.
But Maureen Watt, who co-directs Angel Guardians Funeral Home in Paphos with business partner Neofytos Christodoulides disagree.
“We have repatriated about 25 people alone this year for cremation. We’re just at the start of August and we’re only one funeral home,” she said.
Cyprus is one of three EU states, along with Malta and Greece, which do not have crematorium facilities, although the Greek government passed a law permitting cremation earlier this year. In April, parliament finally passed a long-awaited bill legalising cremation in Cyprus. Watt has been campaigning for a cremation for close to 10 years while Clive Turner, also a Paphos resident, has also been central in the fight for a crematorium.
Turner has collected close to 12,000 signatures from supporting expats and Cypriots on a petition.
The push for a crematorium has increased over recent years as more and more British expats in particular have relocated to Cyprus.
The most recent government population Census from 2011 said there were 31,495 British nationals living on the island. Watt said people who felt they were coming to the end of their lives were starting to return to the UK owing to the desire for cremation.
“They don’t want to be buried,” she said. “A crematorium would help people stay on the island and attract business from surrounding Levant and Gulf countries that don’t have the facilities.”
“When a loved one is cremated, family members come to the service and these people need somewhere to stay and to eat.
“Greece has a licence, but the government has no money to build a crematorium. There will be a crematorium in Cyprus before there’s one in Greece.”
The funeral director said, through her work and campaigning, she had detected an increase in favour towards cremation amongst younger Greek-Cypriots under the age of 55.
“They want it because it will free up the land for much-needed cemeteries.”
In Cyprus, initially the Orthodox Church was adamantly against the presence of a crematorium, as the process of cremation violates religious views on how the remains of a deceased person should be treated.
However, the Church eventually acknowledged that it was an individual’s right to choose how their body was disposed of after death and lifted the prohibition while stressing that it did not intend to be involved in helping to set up a crematorium.
Watt and Christodoulides have started the multi-stage application process eight weeks ago.
“We weren’t the only applicant either and the government wouldn’t be paying for a crematorium. It would be a long-term private investment. ”
Watt regularly liaises with Paphos Municipality when trying to secure burial space for clients. She currently needs to make two burials for which she is seeking alternative arrangements owing to a lack of cemetery space in Paphos.
“The mayor told us that the cemetery in Exo Vrisi will have 350 more plots available by the end of this year. I told him that it would be filled up again within six months to a year.”