Cyprus Mail
Letters

Embrace refugees as part of a multi-cultural society

The economic crisis that troubles Cyprus led the majority of refugees to unemployment, poverty and social exclusion. The majority of us live in abject destitution and no longer have access to the necessary resources for housing and food, neither for us nor for our families.

Apart from the consequences of the economic crisis, not only are we not considered by the competent authorities as an integral and equal part of society, but we continue to confront an institutional context that … refuses to grant us Cypriot citizenship or even the long-term citizenship status and consequently we, as refugees, are still confronting an uncertain future.
In the last few years, we have been scapegoated and shamelessly accused by various political and other circles, as well as by the mass media, on the basis of micro-political and other experiences, as being primarily responsible for the financial crisis and unemployment and for abusing social welfare, while hostility, discrimination and racism against any diversity are rising significantly – a fact that leads to the emergence and reinforcement of racist, fascist and neo Nazi groupings and parties
Despite its recent experience with refugees and emigration, the Republic of Cyprus had adopted an asylum system that is harmonised with the European legislation and policies only in theory, while daily practice still lags behind even the minimum standards of treatment of refugees.
In addition, both the state, as well as society, refuses to accept a simple reality; that Cyprus has been for a four years now a multicultural society, which should embrace refugees as one of its integral parts and practically support them, so they could contribute to the development and welfare of society as a whole.
In light of the above, we urge the Cyprus Government to:
1. Establish a transparent and reliable framework, with specific and objective criteria requirements for people with international protection to acquire Cypriot citizenship after seven years of living in the country. Moreover to ensure that refugees, after five years of residence status, are facilitated rather than excluded from acquiring this permit.
2. Sensitise Cypriot society and the competent authorities, effectively and with determination on issues of equal treatment and respect of diversity and the multicultural character of Cypriot society.
3. Implement an effective plan/mechanism for the provision of support to refugees, their smooth integration, as well as equal and active participation in society (e.g. via language and having access to education) and not only in employment.
4. Include on an equal basis the group of people under international protection, especially in relation to legislation, to policies and programmes of support for vulnerable groups.
5. Adopt effective measures in order to tackle the phenomena of discrimination, institutional racism and racist violence, as well as the scapegoating of people under international protection in the public discourse and the mass media.
Finally, we urge the European commission, the European Parliament, the United Nations High Commission for refugees and the international organisation for the protection of human rights to help and support the Republic of Cyprus to appropriately and effectively meet its commitments to the people under international protection in Cyprus.
Salah Ghanem posted on Cyprus Mail’s FB timeline

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