An unprecedented attack against NGOs defending human rights was unleased yesterday by the Minister of Interior Socrates Hasikos, while speaking at an event for the foundation of the Institute of Demographic and Migration Policy of Cyprus. In a delirium of rampant nationalism and demagogic rhetoric, to the delight of conservative and extreme right constituents, the Minister gave the tone of his ministry’s policy on migration and its role in development.
In not so many words, the Minister of Interior essentially stated that as long as migration suits us, the famous Cypriot hospitality and generosity allow for the acceptance or at least the tolerance of migrants. However, with the severity of the economic crisis and the collapse of the Cyprus economic ‘miracle’, migrants are turned to “a threat to the rights of Cypriot citizens” as well as to the cultural and demographic identity of the country. Thus, according to the Minister, “they must be deported», without respect to their fundamental human rights. In dividing society to «Cypriots” and “non Cypriots”, the Minister repeated his favourite line of migrants “stealing the bread of unemployed Cypriots”.
Through oversimplified aphorisms and arbitrary data for “tens of thousands of illegal foreigners”, the Minister more or less “solved”, at least on paper, the problem of unemployment and other serious problems afflicting society today. These statements are more reminiscent of racist, extreme right or even fascist groups, than those of a top state official, as, according to Mr Hasikos, who is the competent Minister for migration issues, both unemployment and all related problems of the crisis are exclusively due to migrants and refugees in Cyprus.
Mr Hasikos then went on to unleash a harsh attack against civil society organisations defending human rights, saying that they have “far exceeded their boundaries” and have become “machines of manufacturing rights”! Admitting the pressure exercised by NGOs, he stated that “they have often embarrassed the Ministry of Interior and the Civil Registry and Migration Department» and they, therefore, “must be checked for their actions».
We wonder whether Mr Hasikos, after thinking more calmly about his statements, might consider withdrawing them as they embarrass both the governing party and Cyprus internationally. If, however, he really means what he said, then we cannot but condemn these racist and antidemocratic statements, which are in contrast to the declarations of the government for dialogue with and respect for civil society. We finally call on the government to proceed directly to a truly democratic dialogue with NGOs, on the basis of mutual respect and understanding in order to ensure social cohesion and human rights because this is to the interests of democracy.
Cyprus Community Media Centre
Cyprus Stop Trafficking
Future Worlds Center
ΙΚΜΕ – Socio-Political Studies Institute
KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism