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Asylum seekers mobilise over limited work opportunities

(Photo: Christos Theodorides)

Asylum seekers mobilised on Tuesday in Nicosia in a peaceful demonstration seeking to raise awareness regarding their limited employment opportunities as well as exploitative and abusive work conditions.

The asylum seekers held up signs calling for an end to racism and sexual harassment in the workplace, while in view of encouraging the government to increase employment opportunities other signs read “Idleness is killing us” and “We want to contribute to the economy.”

Roughly 100 asylum seekers marched the Nicosia streets to reach the Nicosia district labour office, the interior ministry, EU House, and the labour ministry.

Asylum seekers are permitted to access the labour market one month after the submission of an asylum application, according to the Refugee Law and Ministerial Decision 308/2018 issued at the end of October 2018, though the employment sectors accessible to asylum seekers are limited.

Currently, the employment sectors accessible to asylum seekers include agriculture, waste management, construction, and food delivery, among a few others.

According to one participant, asylum seekers are rejected for access to jobs and the legislation must be open to them.

“When we registered, they asked ‘what can you do’, and we listed a couple of things, but even when you find a job related to one of those things that falls under the category of asylum seeker jobs, they still tell you ‘you can’t do this’,” he said.

Last month, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said that she would be attempting to create new job opportunities for asylum seekers from just one month after filing the asylum application.

The permitted labour market sectors were provided by ministerial decree issued in 2008, and while the labour ministry has since 2018 discussed the possibility of revising the terms to expand employment opportunities for asylum seekers, nothing has been done to date.

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