By Andria Kades
All recently-arrived migrants at the British bases (SBA) in Dhekelia are now willing to apply for asylum in Cyprus provided authorities meet certain conditions, their spokesman, Ibrahim Marouf said on Thursday.
The apparent U-turn from the hardline stance they had earlier this week, after they received a letter from the SBA saying they had the option of applying for asylum or face deportation back to Lebanon came three days before the deadline.
“Between Lebanon and asylum, I surrender,” Marouf told the Cyprus Mail.
Earlier this week, a total of 38 out of 114 had applied.
By Thursday however, the remaining migrants were willing to apply for asylum in Cyprus.
Marouf said their compromise was not without strings attached.
“We are going to apply for asylum but there are a few things we want to ensure before that.”
“We do not want to be put on a shelf and by that I mean be a file that will take years to process.”
Rather, they want a signed paper by authorities promising the application will be processed in no more than nine months.
They also refuse to be moved to Kofinou reception centre as it is “a miserable place, no human can live there. There is no police, no law, gangs and fights, a lot of troubles and problems, which we ran away from in the first place.”
Their view of Kofinou was shaped by members of the group that have already applied for asylum and had the freedom to move in and out of the bases taking the liberty to visit Kofinou.
Marouf said they want to remain under the responsibility of the bases, which includes providing food and drinks as well as finding them a “suitable place” to stay.
He told the Cyprus Mail, authorities said they would have an answer by Friday, something which the bases could not confirm.
The bases could neither verify whether they received these requests. A spokesman said that following the 2003 bilateral agreement with Cyprus, “if they claim asylum they will fall under the responsibility of the Republic of Cyprus and not the SBAs.”
Asked what made the migrants change their mind, Marouf said “I don’t want to go back to Lebanon and this is the reason.”
As a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon he said he “had no rights at all. The only right I had was to die. From sickness, hunger, because I am poor – those were my options.”
Expressing his disappointment over the course of events Marouf told the Cyprus Mail “we thought we are protected from the law that said we cannot be deported if we arrive to Europe.”
“But because they are Britain, the Great Britain they can do whatever they want.”
“Today, everything changed, our views of the United Nations, the United Kingdom, a United Europe and the law itself.”
The 28 children, 19 women and 67 men landed at the Akrotiri Royal Air Force Base in two fishing boats on October 21 and were later transferred to Dhekelia.