By Constantinos Psillides
Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos on Thursday ordered the immediate restoration of citizenship for a 15-year-old with an Egyptian background that had been revoked without explanation.
In a statement, Hasikos attributed the blunder to apparent mistakes made by government officials.
“Following a thorough and immediate investigation of the matter, it appears that due to mistakes and failures of officials in both the migration department and the Paphos welfare district offices there was unacceptable behaviour towards the 15-year old and his family,” Hasikos said.
Hasikos has also ordered that a probe be launched to determine who was at fault and in order to prevent future similar mistakes.
The minister’s response follows a report by immigrant support group KISA, who slammed the government over what it called a human rights violation.
According to KISA, the teenager’s father is a Cypriot citizen of Egyptian origin who has been living on the island since 1986.
In 2002, his wife, who is a citizen of Egypt, and their child, then two-years old, came to Cyprus. In 2004, the child was given a passport of the Cyprus Republic. Since then, the family have had three more children, all of them with Cypriot citizenship. The passport of the 15-year-old was renewed in 2009, while he was also issued with a Cypriot ID card, where it is also stated that he is a Cypriot citizen.
“The handling of this case has in essence turned the said child, from one day to the next, from a Cypriot citizen to a stateless person, not caring for the consequences of this decision on both the child and his family,” KISA had said in a press release earlier on Thursday.
The family was only notified of the development recently, after being informed by the Paphos district welfare services office that they were no longer entitled to child support and public benefit for their older child because his citizenship had been revoked.
KISA said this was not an isolated incident.
“It is an indicative case of the degree to which the Cypriot authorities violate the rights of migrant children,” the organisation said.
In particular, it said, the practice followed regarding children’s access to Cypriot nationality is totally unacceptable as the state insists on its refusal to allow citizenship for children who were born, raised and reached adulthood in Cyprus.
“These children are considered to be undocumented migrants,” KISA said, adding that this was a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Article 7 of the convention provides that ‘the child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality …’, while paragraph 1 of Article 8 of the same convention provides that “States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity, including nationality, name and family relations as recognized by law without unlawful interference.”
KISA claims that in cases where the mother of a child moves away from the Cypriot father, the state refuses to provide support for them and their children considering them third-country nationals.
KISA calls on the Cypriot state to proceed immediately to harmonise legislation with the relevant provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, grant equal rights to mothers and children who are victims of domestic violence irrespective of nationality and allow them residence status in the country. Additionally, KISA requests that they are allowed access to licensed child-care facilities, without reference to the parents’ residence status, at reasonable prices.