Migrant support NGO Kisa has decried its deletion from a registry – effectively rendering it unlawful – and accused the interior minister of harassing the entity under cover of a recent change in the law.
In a press release, Kisa said that on December 14 the interior ministry struck them from the register of associations and foundations, on the grounds that they did not submit audited accounts and did not convene a general assembly within the timeframe set by the ministry.
Kisa called the move a “pretext” by Interior Minister Nicos Nouris specifically and alleged that Nouris has had it in for them ever since he took office.
They cited earlier remarks by Nouris, accusing Kisa of having ties to religious fundamentalist outfits as well as of engaging in money laundering.
Once an entity is scrubbed from the registry it’s no longer eligible for EU funds.
According to Kisa executive director Doros Polycarpou, European programme funds account for 80 per cent of their budget, the rest comprising donations.
Kisa said that back in October – and within the allotted time – it notified the Registrar of Associations and Foundations that they contested their scrubbing from the registry.
A month later they sent the Registrar their audited accounts from 2000 to 2018, and promised to also send their 2019 accounts once their general assembly – to be held in December – convened to approve them.
Two days later they received a written response from the Registrar declining their request to not be scrubbed from the registry.
In their statement Kisa said they intend to use all legal means at their disposal “in Cyprus and beyond” to “put a stop to this new attack of the government against the constitutional and human rights of association and assembly, which constitute an integral part of the right to opinion and expression.”
Kisa’s Polycarpou told the Cyprus Mail they will defy the government decision and will continue operating as normal.
“We regard the decision to delete Kisa from the registry as unlawful.”
It’s understood that, once off the registry NGOs may theoretically still operate, but without government accreditation. However non-accredited NGOs aren’t allowed to open a bank account – a major constraint on their operating.
Moreover – this point being key – unregistered societies and foundations are ineligible for state grants or EU funding.
A law passed in 2017 obliges such NGOs and associations to update their statutes, hold a general meeting at least once a year, produce audited accounts and notify authorities of their current contact information and address. Failure to do any of these may result in the local District Officer deleting an organisation from the registry.
Although the law was passed in 2017, a transition period was granted for compliance. With subsequent extensions, the deadline got pushed to the end of 2019, but then the ministry granted another three months, until the end of March this year.