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Disy calls for discussion on lawyers exploiting migrants

Law

Opposition party Disy called for the issue of lawyers taking advantage of migrants to be discussed at the house interior committee, in a letter sent to parliament on Friday, after it was revealed several law offices had been obstructing asylum application processing causing additional administrative burden on the civil registry and migration department.

The interior ministry, it emerged on Friday, has filed complaints to the Cyprus Bar Association against several law offices, saying that they provided misinformation or false facts to asylum seekers.

In their statement, Disy said: “If it is true, this issue needs to be dealt with through institutional processes of the state and the bar association.”

The party added that financially manipulating migrants, either to come to Cyprus or to prolong their stay, creates false prospects for them, is condemnable.

Disy said that the above was the reason for registering the matter with the house interior committee for discussion.

In a statement later in the day, the interior ministry welcomed the initiative by Disy to have the issue of the law offices giving false information to migrants registered for discussion at the house interior committee.

“Following the instructions of Interior Minister, Mr Constantinos Ioannou, specific cases of lawyers who have been identified as operating in an abusive manner, have been forwarded to the Disciplinary Council of the Pancypriot Bar Association for further action, unfortunately without any substantial results. Migration is a complex issue and any phenomena of non-compliance with the legislation and obstruction of procedures do not contribute to its effective treatment,” the statement said.

The ministry added that it wishes the cooperation of parliament, the bar association, and all those involved, to effectively manage the issue of migration.

Earlier, it emerged that the interior ministry has sent letters of complaints to the bar association over the questionable actions of lawyers.

The ministry claimed that lawyers were informing asylum seekers through messages that the law has changed and they can change their status, which was not the case, the ministry added.

According to the complaint, the ministry added that the lawyers in some cases were “bombarding” the migration department with dozens of letters and requests that are non-existent.

A report in Philenews said the former permanent secretary of the interior ministry Costas Constantinou wrote two letters to the bar association denouncing the actions of certain lawyers in relation to the alleged exploitation of asylum seeker applicants.

Specifically, in one letter to the bar association, Constantinou informed the former president of the association, Christos Clerides, that “recently there have been many reports to the officials of the civil registry and migration department, by asylum applicants, who, as they themselves report, wish to change their status, according to the new legislation.”

The letter said that the applicants were requesting for their status as asylum seekers to change to that of a worker.

According to the letter, the applicants seeking to change their status to workers were informed by a message from a law office about the “purported change” in legislation. The letter added that the applicant would then file an application after paying a fee to the office.

Constantinou in his letters then also said that he had been informed from a non-governmental ogranisation (NGO) about the matter regarding asylum seekers changing their status to workers.

He had added then that the information the asylum seekers are receiving is unsubstantiated and baseless since there is no change in the legislation, and no intention to change the legislation.

The bar association is reported to have responded saying that the complaint was filed to the disciplinary council. Constantinou hit the bar association with another complaint a month after that, saying a law office had sent 50 letters to the interior ministry for residence permits and other permits given for people on humanitarian reasons.

In his letter, Constantinou said that lawyer was trying to abuse the system and mislead authorities.

The bar association has confirmed the receipt of the letters and said one person was found guilty by the disciplinary council, but then the lawyer filed a case in court and had the bar association’s decision nullified.

For the rest of the case and letters, the bar association did not comment.

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