Cyprus Mail

Nicosia protest demands end to second-class status for migrants

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A protester holds a poster of the dead man Anisur Rahman

Hundreds of people took to the streets of Nicosia on Saturday in a peaceful demonstration for equal rights covering all migrants living in Cyprus.

The protest at Eleftheria square was held in memory of Anisur Rahman, a 23-year-old man from Bangladesh who fell to his death as he sought to escape a police raid in Limassol.

Organised primarily by members of the African community living in Cyprus, they marched with a group of Greek Cypriots and Bangladeshi nationals who held placards reading ‘humanity over nationality’.

“We are being treated as if we want to cheat the system. But the reality is we work for below the minimum wage while prices are going up,” they said.

“We work hard and contribute to Cyprus’ economy,” while at the same time live in fear.

They said that Rahman’s death has brought to light “the stark reality of how migrants are policed in Cyprus”.

All we want is a life free from fear of police harassment and violence,” demonstrators said.

Reports have surfaced contradicting the police’s version of events leading to Rahman’s death. Police claimed officers knocked on the door and received consent before stepping in to investigate.

Nonetheless, a complaint has been filed to the independent authority investigating police, arguing the force barged down the door and began arresting people while they woke up in panic. Detainees have also claimed they experienced abuse in police hands.

Protestors on Saturday said “the dangers of this happening again are part of life for the majority of migrants and asylum seekers in Cyprus.”

Between 700-800 individuals attended the demo, saying “we love Cyprus” stressing they seek integration, rather than any division.

They also called for equal access to healthcare and an end to the dehumanisation of third-country nationals.

“Those of us seeking asylum are treated as second-class citizens by the state and many employers.

“Reduced access to medical care, lower wage and racial discrimination are usual phenomena. We are constantly faced with the risk of deportation because of the government’s policy, which a significant portion of media support and promote.”

Amid heavy police presence, they called for an end to deportations.

Cypriots attending the demo chanted: “say it loud, say it clear, migrants are welcome here.”

This is the second protest since Rahman’s death. The last one in Limassol also attracted hundreds of people who called his death a “government murder”.

Rahman’s body is expected to be repatriated to his native Bangladesh soon, as friends have placed flowers at the site where he died saying ‘Sorry Anis’.

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