Cyprus Mail
Guest Columnist

Me and U: the latest brush with bureaucracy for the UK expats

Brexit has meant another pile of paperwork for British expats

Expat View by Clive Turner

I wonder if some government denizen can be encouraged to emerge from his or her eyrie to enlighten us thousands of simple British expats who have been encouraged to apply to exchange the MEU 1 for a MEU 3 residence slip as part of Brexit procedures? What is the essential difference?

It all rather smacks of bureaucracy for the sake of bureaucracy. We obtained our appointment with the immigration department last October when we were advised to pitch up on February 8. This was an easy date to remember, being my birthday.

My wife and I duly turned up with our great file of documentation, which included a five-year record of electricity accounts, very kindly provided by the Cyprus Electricity Authority, and an enormous wodge of bank statements covering the last five years of transactions.

Just don’t forget any of the myriad documents officialdom requires of you otherwise you will be sent away to provide it, after securing another appointment date. . .

We have lived in Cyprus 16 years, during which time we have made available countless pieces of information about ourselves and our circumstances. Tax matters would be but one area. The authorities must know more about us – and have it on record – than is imaginable. Quite why five years of bank statements are required escapes me. I find it extraordinarily intrusive and unnecessarily detailed when a simple statement from our bank, certifying that at least that number of years have passed with regular deposits and withdrawals, should surely be sufficient evidence of occupation here in Cyprus.

At the immigration offices in Paphos we joined 20 other people accompanied by small children and babies – all of whom were blankly patient and the children beautifully behaved, yet of course with nothing to occupy or entertain them. We were all there waiting for two hours at the same time – this being because we were all summoned for the same time slot. How intelligent is that?

At the eventual interview, the lady going through our papers was charming, obviously experienced, and dealt with us with quiet professionalism. The business was all over inside 15 minutes. After giving us a receipt for two sets of 20 euros we were on our way. But what was the 40 euros for? It seems simply a government revenue raiser.

The actual MEU 3s will be issued from Nicosia, with all our documentation sent off to some entirely faceless office which will despatch the sacred bits of paper a few months hence.

So, here we have an administrative procedure with no discernible purpose other than to exchange one MEU slip with another, involving thousands of people, hundreds of staff hours and a great deal of duplicated document gathering, other than for those who for some reason have hitherto never had a MEU at all.

Cyprus is internationally infamous for stifling and endlessly ineffectual bureaucracy, and this MEU farce is, sadly, a prime example.

Jobs for the boys and girls? Perhaps it helps towards full employment?

What certainly does not happen in Cyprus, despite the over staffed ministries and departments with employees tripping over each other, are responses to correspondence.

Try writing to the interior ministry, to the president, to a district officer, or really to any public office and see where it gets you.

It doesn’t matter if you have your email or letter translated from your mother tongue into Greek, or do your level best to be civil, polite, concise, a model of clarity, or just write to seek help or advice. I can assure you that any reply at all will be like winning the lottery in terms of your success.

Is it because non-citizenship expats can have really no influence on public appointments, despite being able to vote in municipal elections? The impression given is that the powers that be simply don’t care. We are just a tiresome nuisance.

It has long since been an unfulfilled requirement that the government should recognise the expat population is large – and that we have a disproportionate effect on voluntary endeavour. We are substantial tax contributors, a truly important element when it comes to property development and construction. We are also a source of experience, possessing a cornucopia of skills, and offering a blend of international attitudes which happily and usefully leavens the mix on the island.

Please do not patronise or dismiss us. And please answer correspondence!  At least now tell us just what you plan – or are obliged – to do with all this huge mass of information and detail about the populace? What new data has it afforded you that you didn’t have before?

Clive Turner [email protected].cy

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