By Evie Andreou
THREE Nicosia municipalities pledged on Monday to widen the services they offer to help third country nationals (TCNs) integrate successfully into Cypriot society.
In an event to mark the third year of the integration programme, Action, Nicosia deputy mayor Eleni Loukaidou said racism and xenophobia had been noticeable during the economic crisis and that local authorities played a vital role in ensuring social cohesion.
“We at the Nicosia municipality, along with our partners, aim to further develop the programmes and to further utilise EU solidarity funds by widening and specialising our services,” said Loukaidou.
Action’s ‘New Channels for the integration of TCNs’ is run by the municipalities of Nicosia, Ayios Dometios and Lakatamia, the Nicosia municipality multifunctional foundation and NVK Advent Consulting Ltd.
Loukaidou said that Cyprus is home to more than 60,000 TCNs who actively participate in the economic and social life and she expressed the partners’ commitment to widen their services.
Mayor of Ayios Dometios Costas Petrou said that the programme focused on the need of third country nationals to feel welcome and accepted by society.
“The economic crisis, our country is experiencing, had many negative consequences including racism, xenophobia and social exclusion,” he said.
Petrou added that it was also a challenge to cultivate mutual understanding of all citizens’ rights by maintaining social cohesion within local communities.
The two main tasks of Action are to promote TCN integration by creating a network between local authorities, immigrant organisations and non-governmental organisations and to provide social services, information and educational seminars. Social and cultural events are also part of the agenda.
“We have to realise that it is about people who come from far away, leave their families, the lifestyles they are accustomed to. By providing them with psychosocial support, we ensure that they manage their negative emotions that might be created due to differences in culture, stress and workload,” Lakatamia mayor Loucas Iatrou said.
He described how last month Lakatamia municipality had hosted an international cultural festival in which music and dance groups from Cyprus, Georgia, Philippines, Vietnam, Cameroon, Sri-Lanka and India had all participated.
“It was a platform of expression, socialisation and interaction,” he said.
Action has also focused on the challenges facing third country nationals in terms of state schooling and the rights of TCN students entering higher education.
The municipalities and the Nicosia municipality multifunctional foundation also offer afternoon childcare which includes meals, experiential workshops in Cyprus history and civilisation, English language and computer courses.
Action is addressed to children, teenagers, adults and parents of TCN s that reside legally in Cyprus and is co-funded by the European Integration Fund for third country nationals and the Cyprus government.