Migrant support NGO Kisa on Tuesday slammed a new bill with tougher criteria for citizenship as racist.

“The ministry has prepared and submitted the bill without any consultation with stakeholders whether governmental or non-governmental, let alone the immigrants and refugees themselves,” the NGO said.

It added that it was of the opinion that with the bill, the government had made it very clear it did not want to integrate all migrants and refugees irrespective of residence status in the country “while it had no qualms or reservations about selling Cypriot citizenship to the rich, or even persons who participated in organised crime and serious violations of human rights”.

Kisa wondered if the attorney-general had inspected the bill and found it in accordance with the principles governing the rule of law and the Geneva Convention.

According to the provisions of the bill the length of stay while seeking international protection, with subsidiary protection and studying is not counted in the time period of authorised stay before the submission of a citizenship application.

Kisa said this practically means that the overwhelming majority of refugees (over 85 per cent) would be excluded altogether from acquiring citizenship.

“Even refugee children born and raised in Cyprus and who consider it as their home country will be excluded from acquiring citizenship based on the above data. The same applies to children of Turkish Cypriot origin who one of the parents is not a Cypriot citizen,” the NGO said. Recognised refugees will also be negatively affected as the time of their stay before they are granted the refugee status will not count towards the time required for citizenship.

Also excluded are persons who at any stage of their lives were convicted for a minor offence, for instance they did not have the money to pay for the out-of-court Covid fine.

Individuals who have entered or resided illegally in Cyprus at any stage “and therefore all refugees”, are also excluded from acquiring citizenship, Kisa said. They must also prove to be of “good character”. Adequate knowledge of Greek to level B1 is also required “an examination that even many Cypriots would not successfully pass”, it added.

Kisa considers that these provisions will make it impossible under the current conditions of immigration to obtain citizenship for almost all migrants who have been living and working for decades in our country, in employment sectors, employers and earnings set by the law.”

It said the provisions circumvent the “very notion of citizenship and the basic criterion on which it can be granted”.