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Open Letter

Nicosia 30.09.2013

My name is Muhammad Altaf and I am from Kashmir. Ten years ago, I had to leave my country, my friends, my family and my comrades, because my life was in danger.

I was waiting for 8 whole years for my asylum application to be examined. It was finally examined and I was recognised as a refugee. I have been leaving in Cyprus as a refugee for ten years now. My friends and comrades who left with me during the same period now have families, they are financially independent and they have already received the citizenship of their new country.

However, after ten years in the country, I and almost all refugees living in Cyprus, have not progressed socially and financially and there is no real prospect for the situation to be improved: I have to either work as an unskilled worker or depend on social welfare. Under these circumstances, I do not have a residency status that allows me to effectively access my rights under European Law and the UN Refugee Convention, since Cyprus does provide neither a long-term residency nor citizenship to recognized refugees, irrespective of the duration of their stay in the country. The only residency status provided is for three years with the possibility of a renewal for three more years each time.

Because of the above situation, I have tried to seek employment in another European country and I signed a contract of employment with a company in Belgium. When I contacted the Belgian authorities to arrange my residency status, they told me that the type of residency that Cyprus provides to refugees does not allow them to work legally as refugees in a different EU member state.

In light of this situation, I have decided to start a protest of indeterminate duration demanding from the Cyprus government to provide me access to my right to citizenship or a long-term residency status.

Yours sincerely,

Mohammad Altaf