By George Psyllides
THE CHILDREN of refugee mothers are to be given refugee status, along with all the accompanying benefits, Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos said yesterday.
The minister said the cabinet had taken a preliminary decision on the matter, thus securing equal participation in all government schemes for refugees.
Refugee women had for years demanded to be afforded refugee status that was until now held only by men who were forced to leave their homes in the north of Cyprus following the 1974 Turkish invasion.
The minister stressed that the decision would not affect the state budget in any way as available funds would now be allocated equally between to all those with refugee status.
He also rejected the argument used throughout the years that recognising displaced women would hurt Cyprus’ credibility because it would mean a big rise in the overall number of refugees.
“And I ask you: what credibility is left after 40 years?” Hasikos said.
“There should not be any differences among us, especially the time we are currently going through.”
Refugees are afforded housing, land, and grants to buy homes, as well as low interest loans.
In May 2011, the previous administration allocated around €10.6 million in allowances and benefits for children of refugee mothers but stopped short of officially recognising them.
In February of that year, the Supreme Court ruled that a law passed by parliament to grant the children of refugee mothers the same status as the children of refugee fathers was unconstitutional.
The government said it could not afford what it would cost to push through the law, and that parliament did not have the right to pass a self-proposed law that would constitute a burden on state funds.
It had also been decided that refugee mothers’ children would also enjoy equal participation at Agency for Equal Distribution of Burdens – the Foreign Ministry’s service for approving loans at lower interests for refugees who lost land in the invasion.