I rarely ordered home delivery a decade or so ago. It wasn’t that big a part of the culture, beyond the odd once a week souvlaki or the usual well known chains that always had their own organised delivery system.
Ordering has always existed in Cyprus as an alternative, it is a food loving place after all, but the advent of online companies who manage the logistics of delivery has taken this business to a different level. And Covid has multiplied daily orders to unprecedented levels.
Rising delivery demand has created the need for more delivery people and companies – no surprises here – have gone for the lowest of wage earners, third country individuals. They are sent out on bikes in all weather conditions, including thousands of coffee orders daily, in most cases carrying only a student driver’s licence.
There have been efforts to ensure that delivery becomes part of a road safety network, with relevant legislation, as Covid restrictions have turned the business into one of the most profitable over the past two years and most young third country nationals living in Cyprus go through this job, on many occasions to their own detriment, as the many bike accidents attest.
But beyond the issues of possible wage and working conditions exploitation and road safety, an incident in Nicosia on the night of February 13 has highlighted the dangers of racist behaviour against delivery people who spent most of their day on two wheels.
As reported by different local media, a group of minors ‘attacked and terrorised’ food delivery boys in Pallouriotissa, or according to other sources, the delivery people clashed with the underage boys with a 28-year-old suffering head injuries, after allegedly been attacked by a 53-year-old, the father of one of the minors.
The 53-year-old was charged in writing and released, while police are investigating three different incidents where minors have terrorised delivery people in Nicosia.
Let’s say we take the heated discussions on migration and racism out of the equation, even though it has become part of the wider social realities.
Delivery people have become an essential aspect of the workforce in day-to-day Cyprus. Yes, they happen to be third country individuals, as they are willing to take a low wage to survive, they are willing to drive under any conditions. The state needs to protect them and the social fabric – that’s us – need to at least respect and ‘see’ them.
Last October in Athens, an 18-year-old delivery man from Pakistan was killed when a driver run a stop sign, throwing him off his bike.
A report in ‘Vima’ newspaper, described him as a ‘ghost’. He had no papers, no insurance, no nearby relatives or friends missed him. His body was not returned home.
“The ‘invisible’ immigrant, was working for survival and sending back to his family in Pakistan, the means to also survive,” Vima wrote last October.
His death was not a top story, it merely made the back pages, done and dusted over two lines of fact…and everyone moved on.
The past few years in Cyprus have shown that diversity shouldn’t be a self-satisfying slogan, but taught as a means of bettering ourselves. Sounds easy to say, but it’s a daily process. Delivery people are just another social aspect of this process.
A colleague recently publicly shared his own take on these realities.
‘Stop ordering when it’s pouring with rain. I am sure you can wait a while.’