The head of the immigration department Annie Shiakalli has been removed from her position by Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, it emerged on Tuesday.
Annie Shiakalli has been transferred to a different department in the interior ministry and will now be tasked with representing Cyprus in international forums on immigration.
Shiakallis’ appointment will be temporary, lasting two years.
Chrystalla Koutta-Loizou, a high ranking official in the department, has been appointed as an interim replacement.
A new head will be appointed by the end of July.
Shakalli’s removal from the immigration department has been a long standing request of NGOs, which accused her of being hostile and uncooperative.
Similar reports have been filed by ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou, who accused Shiakalli of not responding to her letters and restricting access to immigrants’ files.
Savvidou told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday that her clash with Shiakalli was well documented, adding that there was a lack of communication with the department.
Doros Polycarpou, the head of Immigrant Support group KISA, welcomed the decision to remove Shiakalli, hoping that it will signify a new era in the ministry’s relations with NGOs.
“This decision shows that Hasikos is indeed moving forward with the changes he promised us when we last met,” he told the Cyprus Mail. “He told us that he wants to start a new relationship with NGOs. He told us things were going to change. We responded that nothing will ever change if Shiakalli keeps her post. Now that she has been removed, we are cautiously optimistic.”
Rows with the ombudswoman and the NGOs were not Shiakallis’ only problem.
She has been criticized on a number of occasions regarding decisions she made on deporting immigrants, with some of those even struck down by the Supreme Court.
Two weeks ago, daily Politis reported that state attorneys were fuming with Shiakalli because they were forced to defend decisions that were described as “blatantly illegal” before the Supreme Court.
Shiakalli was appointed as the department’s deputy head in 2002 and took the helm in 2004.