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KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism welcomes the position of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) that recognizes “the necessity [for] the effective facilitation of naturalization, as provided for in […] the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees[1]. However, KISA also notes that if the UNHCR fails to persuade the competent authorities of the Republic of Cyprus – namely the Civil Registry and Migration Department (CRMD) of the Ministry of Interior – for positive decisions shortly, then it should consider that the particular refugees, once again on hunger strike, are in emergency situation and therefore the UNHCR needs to relocate them to another country, in which they will have full access to their basic human rights and the chance to live with safety and dignity.

It is reminded that on Monday, 2 June 2014, a group of recognized refugees set up a protest camp in front of the offices of the UNHCR Representation in Cyprus and started a hunger strike. From early September until late November 2013, the same group set up a protest camp in front of the Cyprus Parliament, demanding the immediate examination of their applications for Cypriot citizenship or long term residency status. Then, as they did not receive any response from the CRMD, from late November 2013 and for 52 days, they went on hunger strike and stopped taking any liquids in the last 4 days of their hunger strike [2].

After the personal intervention of Mr. Damtew Dessalegne, Representative of the UNHCR in Cyprus [3], Mr. Socrates Hasikos, Minister of Interior, had a meeting with the said refugees, during which there was a discussion on the severe problems that persons with international protection status face in Cyprus. The Minister of Interior assured them that their applications would be examined immediately and they had good reasons to expect a favourable decision [4].

Although the CRMD committed to respond to the refugees until May 15, it regrettably failed to do so. Thus and after waiting for five whole months, the refugees decided to start another hunger strike, this time near the Offices of the UNHCR Representation in Cyprus, asking for resettlement to another country, in case the CRMD refuses to grant them Cypriot citizenship.

The UNHCR also states in its official response to the refugees, who had appealed to the international organization at the beginning of their strike [5], that the relocation to another country is not an activity that they normally carry out in the European Union, due to the fact that they implement a strict prioritization of cases.

KISA agrees with the UNHCR that refugees from outside Europe are confronted with more pressing needs and should have a clear priority for resettlement. Nevertheless, KISA asks from the UNHCR to take all necessary measures at their disposal in order to put more pressure on the Government of the Republic of Cyprus, so as to take on its long overdue responsibilities regarding their basic human rights, including the right to naturalization.

KISA calls on the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to take on its responsibilities without further delay and respond positively to the justified demands of the striking refugees.

KISA also sounds the alarm bells that this time, and despite the fact that the refugees on hunger strike have undergone myriads of hardships and persecutions, it is no longer only a case of denial of basic human rights; it is, rather, a matter of life or death.

Notes for editors:

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