Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Overhaul of public service long overdue

By Hermes Solomon

You cannot deliver a Bentley to a hillbilly and expect him to behave like a gentleman. An agreement to help reform the public service was signed recently by British High Commissioner, Matthew Kidd, and permanent secretary of the finance ministry, Christos Patsalides.

Restructuring the public sector requires independent experts and the UK’s National School of Government International will offer consultancy and human resource management services to research and hopefully improve local government.

My wife, a citizen of the republic this past three years, was driven by a combination of lawyer ineptitude, courthouse chaos and civil registry and migration department ‘pure bloody-mindedness’ into sobbing inconsolably in anticipation of the major player of ‘this iniquitous trio’- migration – deporting her only child on his 18th birthday.

In June 2010, she applied for citizenship for her then 14 year old son, who arrived here from China in 2005 at the age of nine. All required documents were submitted, verified and accepted as valid by migration, the clerk claiming the application was straightforward and the boy would receive citizenship within a year.

Two years later, my wife received a letter from migration requesting she procure a court order confirming that the boy had remained in her sole care/custody since the time of her divorce from his ‘biological’ father in 2005.

After applying for renewal of the boy’s temporary resident’s permit in June 2012, we did not receive it on the grounds that migration were awaiting that court order – mother and child were left prisoners of the island necessitating the services of a law firm at the cost of a 1,050 euros.

After over a year of innumerable courthouse visits and exchange of court documents between my wife’s lawyer and the boy’s father confirming his consent, the requisite legally certified document (sole guardianship of mother) already in the hands of migration as well as three reliable testimonies confirming the boy’s place of permanent residence this past eight years, the case was referred by the judge to the welfare services, requesting a report on the boy’s state of health, home and ‘happiness’ in Cyprus; a procedural ignominious waste of time and money!

What was initially expected to take a few months had grown into a court order saga of 14 months. We started to fear that any final resolution might coincide with the boy reaching his 18th birthday, the age of consent/adulthood, when migration have the right to issue a deportation order in the event of which he either returns to his country of origin or reapplies for citizenship in his own right as an adult resident of an EU member state for more than five years.

Due to the existing ‘backlog’, reapplication fees are 500 euros and a further seven year wait said migration. In the meantime he would have to renew his temporary resident’s permit and health insurance annually as ‘a student’ at one of our many ‘dubious’ educational establishments, thus becoming a prisoner of the island for a total of 16 years.

Immigrants entitled to citizenship are now ‘frowned’ upon by EU member states as economies sink deeper into the doldrums. Migration departments are inundated annually by revisions of migration policy/laws which suffocate incompetent administrations.

Ours was already asphyxiated by inextricable entanglements due to the continued observance of out-dated systems – meaningless drivel and pointless paperwork requiring multi-countersigning and validation stamps, which has sucked the system into a cesspit of confusion where fattened files are stacked mountain high in back rooms collecting dust.

What started out as a straightforward request for citizenship developed into a Kafkaesque nightmare mismanaged by lawyers, judges, an overstretched welfare department and blighted by inaccessible and unaccountable migration officials.

Today, our administration lives in a state of confusion, uncertainty and protracted irresolution in most matters of law and government, with courthouse staff still employing ‘Victorian’ notation ledgers and the migration department regularly ‘losing’ applicants’ files.

Methods and systems are in dire need of overhaul and modernisation to meet EU demands, which are possessed of a sophistication and sophistry exceeding the common man’s ability to adapt to it. This leviathan has made ‘ordinary life’ impossibly complicated, having succeeded during this past 30 years in subjugating the masses to powerless penury.

George Orwell described what Brussels has become in his masterpiece, 1984, Big Brother, and we all know what big bullies big brothers can be. Separating a mother from her child for whatever trumped-up reason is unforgivable!

The good news is that after 38 months of perpetually harassing migration, we collected the boy’s citizenship papers last week. His application had been checked and countersigned by 10 separate migration officials/clerks with the head of department’s signature at the very bottom.

And that was the only one that really mattered! We will visit the ministry of defence shortly to establish when and for how long he will have to ‘go back to jail’ – military service.

It seems criminal that citizenship can be bought overnight by stinking rich, third country nationals, while those legally entitled are made to wait, in some cases, interminably.

One lady chemist married to a Cypriot for five years was refused because she’d forgotten to cancel her asylum seeker status, and another, who has been waiting eight years, ignored because her Cypriot husband was 69 at the time and she 42! Many hundreds of couples are kept waiting in nerve racking, tortuously anxious, anticipation.

Let’s hope that the fees paid to reform the public service don’t go the same way as the many millions of euros wasted on a German consultancy firm contracted ten years ago to reform the public health service – out of tax payers’ pockets and into God knows whose.

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