Over 100 people attended a demonstration in Nicosia on Friday marking World Refugee Day.
Carrying banners saying, ‘Solidarity to refugees’ and ‘We can’t breathe’, scores of people gathered at Eleftheria Square at 6pm to take part in the demonstration “saying no to racism and xenophobia.”
With music playing in the background, the event attracted both locals and refugees alike, with several Cypriots of all ages at the scene, some sporting T-shirts reading ‘Solidarity with refugees’.
In a speech at the demonstration, Akel general-secretary Andros Kyprianou said Cypriots should be able to relate to the plight of refugees, due to our own sufferings stemming from the time around the Turkish invasion.
“It is twice as sad for us Cypriots who were and are, a country of refugees. For those of us who in the past few decades were forced, due to the political instabilities and the Turkish invasion, to get into boats and planes… who can forget our tents? Our camps? Our children which we loaded on to planes and hoped for the kindness of strangers for their survival?”
Many Cypriots fought hard to survive abroad and it makes it sad that in our day and age, years after the world witnessed concentration camps and the death caused by fascism, it is still necessary to fight for respect to human life and love, he added.
Kyprianou said people that risked their lives to leave their home countries did so because they were fleeing poverty and war and wanted to save the lives of their children.
He also had a dig at the government for its handling of the migrant crisis.
“Since 2015 when all other routes to Europe closed, could (the government) not predict that migrant flows to Cyprus would increase? Where did the €100m EU funds on migrants go that led us to the point where today, reception centres have no soap for people to wash themselves and no tents?” said Kyprianou.
Referring to President Nicos Anastasiades’ recent concerns that there may be concerted efforts to change Cyprus’ demographic character as a result of migrants coming in from the north – which he said could have Turkey’s hands behind it – Kyprianou suggested it was ironic coming from the government that allowed thousands of people to buy themselves a passport.
Imperialism is solely responsible for the waves of migrant flows, he added.