Cyprus Mail

When the welcome turns sour

migrants walk in a caravan with the intention of turning themselves in to u.s. border patrol agents, in ciudad juarez
Migrants are silhouetted as they walk in a caravan with the intention of turning themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents, on the banks of the Rio Bravo river in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico March 29, 2023. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez


It was bound to happen. Some predicted severe water shortages in the region, particularly affecting lives and lands in Africa and the Middle East, would cause mass migration. Recent wars moved that fast forward when people fleeing manmade horror and destruction sought refuge far from their own lands and others took advantage of their misery and turned it to opportunity. You know the scenario.

While the UK, long a new start destination for Cypriots and Irish among many others, gathers a fair whack of foreigners smitten by the Royal family wanting to see where these over-indulged legends live, Cyprus and Ireland proudly sell their tourism product with a friendly and hospitable label. Those open door signs are now looking due for overhaul.

The UK feels swamped by illegal immigrants sucking money like hungry vacuums from government coffers, complainers rant, while veterans are neglected, Brits sleep on streets/can’t pay bills/can’t afford housing. Yet huge outlay is always there for the pampered Royals, the Queen’s funeral, the impending coronation, and Honours lists have become farcical. The usual excuse for Royal expenditure is they’re a tourist draw.

Cyprus has been swamped beyond its logical capacity or hospitality to cope. Recently, resentful anti-immigration demonstrations in Ireland, cited by some journalists as far-right instigated, illustrated the simmering anger many ordinary people, as in the UK and Cyprus, not normally given to violent speech or protest, now feel towards ‘freeloaders’ living off the taxpayer.

I ran into an old Irish friend one day who commented on the number of migrants being taken into Ireland. ‘Foreigners are there rent-free while our brains are moving abroad because they can’t afford impossible rents or homes. My nephew left because, he said, he was working just to pay a landlord. No need to ask why there isn’t a rent ceiling or why no social housing is being built when so much property is owned by some of the Irish ruling classes? People are struggling and their taxes are going towards the upkeep of strangers.’

Another non-racist Irish friend sounded off about Ukrainians housed near him. ‘I have no objection, given the horrors they have gone through and are going through, to putting up women, children, and old folk. But I see able-bodied men strolling around, being supported by our government when they could be defending their country. Are the needy Irish diaspora as well taken care of?’

I mentioned I had seen Africans, I assumed legally employed, engaged in road works in my area. He thought it a good solution, that those legally taken into a country, like the Ukrainians, should be offered the chance to find work. ‘Surely, as a resilient people that would give them a sense of restored dignity,’ he concluded.

A Cypriot friend who suffers a disability that renders him unable to take an outside job and would gladly work part-time from home was really angry about the €750 gifted to immigrants as an incentive to return to their countries. ‘Why do they have cash for giving away to foreigners when they begrudge us Cypriots a chance to work where we can instead of being entirely dependent on a system that is totally inadequate to meet today’s needs?’ He cannot, he said, take part time employment or he would lose his benefits.

He laughs about the farce that is Gesy saying that some of his necessary medication isn’t on the list, and he ends up with a hefty bill for it. The system doesn’t factor in additions that will inevitably arise like an old car needing a pre MOT overhaul. Our lack of proper public transport meanwhile deems a car a necessity for a man who can’t use the current transport system. Added to that, there’s no chance to save for an emergency.

The problem here, he concluded, is the government got used to family taking care of family but that isn’t always the case. ‘Aren’t we the government’s family?’ he laughed ironically. ‘Well, like my family, they’re happier to give to outsiders rather their own, it’s good PR.’ My Irish friends believed charity begins at home. Not always, my friends, not always.


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