ga('create', 'UA-116984191-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');

Invitation_Press Conference_ECRE Campaign

Future Worlds Center and KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism, in cooperation with ECRE – European Council on Refugees and Exiles, organized a conference today on “The crisis in Syria and the politics of the European Union and the Republic of Cyprus regarding the Syrian refugees”. The conference took place at the House of the European Union (EU) in Nicosia, in cooperation with the Office of the European Parliament in Nicosia, and it was organized as part of the “Help Syria’s Refugees: Europe Act Now” (www.helpsyriasrefugees.eu) campaign that is supported by more than 100 European and local NGOs. [1]

The conference was coordinated by Ms Corina Drousiotou, Head of Humanitarian Affairs Unit and Senior Legal Advisor of the Future Worlds Center.

The welcome speech was made by Ms Alexandra Attalidou, Acting Head of the European Parliament Office in Cyprus, who stated that “the European Parliament actively supports the effort of the EU to continue offering humanitarian help and support to refugees, ensuring to them a safe entrance and access to just asylum procedures in the EU”. Ms Attalidou concluded by stating that “the position and decisions by the Members of the European Parliament are clear. It is stated explicitly and clearly how a state should act when faced with such humanitarian crisis, if it wants to be called a European and civilized state. The Republic of Cyprus, having experienced firsthand the suffering of war and refugees, should have shown solidarity to Syrian people during this time of crisis. It shouldn’t have ignored the resolutions of the European Parliament and disobey the instructions of the EU regarding refugees and immigrants. It shouldn’t use the refugee and asylum issues for petty political expediency and populism, but should have set the example by showing to others the meaning of humanity and hospitality. I hope that during this conference conclusions will be drawn towards this direction”. [2]

Mr George Markopouliotis, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus, presented the policy of the European Commission on the crisis in Syria and stated that “an uprising that started 3 years ago in Syria has evolved into a full-blown civil war which has killed tens of thousands and has uprooted millions of people from their homes. According to the United Nations, this makes Syria ‘the biggest humanitarian and security crisis in the world’. We must react; we must help those in need. And we are doing exactly that”. [3]

Then, Mr Damtew Dessalegne, Head of the UNHCR – United Nations High Commission for Refugees Representation in Cyprus, presented the response of the UNHCR to the Syrian refugees’ crisis at both the European and the national level. Mr Dessalegne stated that the “main message is that Syrians are fleeing one of the worst conflicts the world has seen in decades, and many of them have been subjected to unspeakable human rights violations and persecution in their home country. Giving these refugees a safe way into Europe, protecting them when arriving at Europe’s borders, and helping families torn apart by the war to reunite should be a humanitarian and human rights imperative for all. This is the second best thing we can do. The first best course of action is, of course, to end this terrible, tragic war”. [4]

Ms Julia Zelvenska, Senior Legal Officer of ECRE, presented the response of the European Union to the Syrian refugees’ crisis from the view of the civil society in Europe. Ms Zelvenska stated that “the treatment of Syrian asylum applications is divergent across Europe and evolved over time”. She added that “some European countries recognised refugee status for Syrian asylum applicants in the majority of cases (27% of all positive decisions in the EU in 2013). At the same time other countries granted Syrians subsidiary protection (62%) and 1% of the decisions were of humanitarian status. The recognition rates in Cyprus, Greece and Spain were of concern to us in 2013. ECRE considers that asylum applications from Syrians and stateless persons, who enjoyed protection in Syria, should be addressed on the presumption that they are likely to meet the refugee definition contained in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Where they do not meet the definition, they should be granted subsidiary protection”. [5]

Mr Riginos Polydefkis, Administrative Officer of the CRMD – Civil Registry and Migration Department of the Ministry of Interior, presented the policy of the Republic of Cyprus to the Syrian refugees’ crisis. Mr Polidefkis stated that “the Ministry of Interior, in the framework of the implementation of the migration policy of the Republic of Cyprus and taking into consideration the aspects of the Syrian crisis, already from July 2012, in cooperation with the other competent ministries, has established explicit policies regarding the way that the Syrian citizens who are living in the Republic of Cyprus are treated. The policies that are analysed in this conference are based on two pillars: 1) the treatment of Syrian citizens on the basis of humanitarian criteria, taking into consideration the existing conditions in their country of origin and 2) the prevention of the abuse of migration flows in the Republic of Cyprus”. Mr Polidefkis concluded by stating that “the Republic of Cyprus is facing a difficult period of economic crisis, which makes extremely difficult the work of the migration authorities regarding the right and timely management of migration flows. The limited personnel of the competent authorities and the lack of the necessary resources, in most of the cases, are taking negative effect regarding the simplification and acceleration of the migrant procedures. Of course, there are always possibilities for improvement and the possibilities toward this direction are persistent and continuous. I believe that with your support and cooperation any problems that we are now facing could be resolved for the benefit of all of us”. [6]

Lastly, Ms Nicoletta Charalambidou, a human rights lawyer, Member of the Steering Committee of KISA and Vice-Chair of ENAR – European Network Against Racism, presented the response of the Republic of Cyprus to the Syrian refugees’ crisis from the view of the civil society in Cyprus. She stated that the policies of the Republic of Cyprus as presented by the representative of the Ministry of Interior, lead to the violations of the rights of Syrian refugees, who either used to live in Cyprus before under various legal statuses, or come for the first time fleeing the current situation in Syria, as the vast majority of them remain undocumented in the country without access to any rights or are unlawfully detained for deportation purposes or not granted a refugee status under accelerated procedures so that they can have access to rights and a life in dignity. She concluded that the Republic of Cyprus should align its policies in accordance with international and European Union law, and provide Syrian refugees access to protection through fair and efficient asylum procedures and durable solutions. [7]

The conference was attended by representatives of the civil society and the refugees’ communities in Cyprus, students and researchers, as well as journalists and candidates of the upcoming elections for the European Parliament.

Notes for editors:


[1] ECRE – European Council on Refugees and Exiles. Monday, 28th of April 2014. “Open Letter to the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Justice and Home Affairs of the Council of the European Union” ECRE_Open_Letter_EU_28.04.2014

[2] Ms Alexandra Attalidou, Acting Head of the European Parliament  Office in Cyprus – “Welcome Opening: The crisis in Syria and the politics of the European Union and the Republic of Cyprus regarding the Syrian refugees” EPOC_Speech_Syrian_Refugees_In_Cyprus_30.04.2014

[3] Mr George Markopouliotis, Head of the European Commission Representation in Cyprus – “The crisis in Syria and the policy of the European Commission” ECRC_Speech_Syrian_Refugees_In_Cyprus_30.04.2014

[4] Mr Damtew Dessalegne, Head of the UNHCR – United Nations High Commission for Refugees Representation in Cyprus – “The crisis in Syria and the politics of the European Union and the Republic of Cyprus regarding the Syrian refugees: The response of the UNHCR to the Syrian Refugee Crisis” UNHCR_Speech_Syrian_Refugees_In_Cyprus_30.04.2014

[5] Ms Julia Zelvenska, Senior Legal Officer of ECRE – European Council on Refugees and Exiles – “The response of the European Union to the Syrian Refugee Crisis from the view of the civil society: ECRE’s view on the situation of Syrian Refugees in the EU” ECRE_Speech_Syrian_Refugees_In_Cyprus_30.04.2014

[6] Mr Riginos Polydefkis, Administrative Officer of the CRMD – Civil Registry and Migration Department, Ministry of Interior – “The response of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Cyprus to the Syrian Refugee Crisis” MoI_Speech_Syrian_Refugees_In_Cyprus_30.04.2014

[7] Ms Nicoletta Charalambidou, Human rights lawyer, Member of the Steering Committee of KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism and Vice-Chair of ENAR – European Network Against Racism – “The response of the Republic of Cyprus to the Syrian Refugees Crisis from the view of the civil society”

Demand_Dignity

Subscribe To Kisa Newsletter

Subscribe To Kisa Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team. KISA's activity is focused on the fields of Migration, Asylum, Racism, and Trafficking, as well as raising awareness in Cypriot society.

You have Successfully Subscribed!